An analysis of change in the management practices of school principals in the context of an external intervention from 1977 to 2000 : case study of the Imbewu project in the eastern Cape province.
Adonis, Agrinette Nolwandle.
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This study focuses on a large-scale, foreign-funded education intervention, the Imbewu Project (IP). This project was funded by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) and was implemented in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa between 1997 and 2000 in close consultation with the Eastern Cape’s Provincial Department of Education (ECDE). The impact of the project is examined through the eyes of the primary school participants, principals, teachers and members of School Governing Bodies. The major concern of the study is to explore the impact of the intervention on the management practices of schools. The study examines those factors which promoted or undermined the efficacy of the IP. Cluster or multi-stage sampling was used for sampling schools from which respondents for questionnaires were selected. A total of 250 copies of the two questionnaires (200 for teachers and 50 for school principals) were sent to selected schools. Out of these, 33 were filled in and returned by school principals and 119 were filled in and returned by teachers. Convenience sampling was used for sampling the schools from which interviewees were selected. Five (5) principals, eight (8) members of the school governing bodies, 15 key teachers and 15 non-key teachers were interviewed. A largely descriptive research design was used to explore the views and perceptions of principals, teachers and school governing body (SGB) members about changes in the management practices in their schools. School documents from the schools used for interviews were analysed in order to corroborate the information given by the respondents. The training materials used by the IP were closely aligned with the imperatives identified in the South African Schools Act (1996). The education management development (EMD) modules of the IP and the management areas in the South African Schools Act (1996), for example, suggests that the IP training programme was guided by official policy. The IP programme was therefore appropriate for supporting and enhancing the work of the ECDE in improving school efficiency and for the transformation of education in the schools. Advanced age, lengthy experience and the poor quality of teacher training tended to limit the optimal impact of the IP. The IP training helped principals and SGB members to understand their roles in the school and to participate more effectively than before. In the IP, while the quality of the training was perceived as good, it appeared that the duration did not allow for assimilation and in-depth understanding of the content. In addition, the cascading model of training was regarded as a threat to the successful implementation of the IP as it distorted and reduced the amount of knowledge that reached the majority of teachers in the schools. Principals did not warmly support the transformation agenda that forced them to work with SGB members who were often poorly informed about school matters. However, principals were ready to use the SGBs in aspects such as mobilizing parents to attend meetings and providing security for the school that were not directly related to their own management work. Principals continued to wield power in the SGBs because they were superior to all parent members of the SGBs in terms of academic qualification, expertise, and official information. The heads of departments (HODs) in the schools were not targeted for the IP training. Consequently, most of them had to be trained by their teachers in the IP activities at the schools. The fact that these HODs were not trained in the IP meant that their professional authority in the implementation process of IP activities was undermined as they had to depend on their teachers regarding these activities in their departments. This tended to undermine the institutionalization and sustainability of the intervention. Poverty proved to be a serious challenge to the success of the IP intervention in the most disadvantaged schools. The poorest schools were unable to take full advantage of the IP intervention in terms of training manuals and learning material compared to those which were better off. There was therefore a tendency for the IP to inadvertently promote and increase inequalities.