What makes school community partnership work? : a case study.
While school-community partnership is highly encouraged in South Africa, schools and their communities seem reluctant to take up this opportunity to develop themselves and in the process improve learner attainment. This qualitative study located in the interpretivist paradigm adopts a case study research design that utilises semi-structured interviews, observation and document analysis to collect data. This study explores the nature of school-community partnership seeking to understand what makes school-community partnership work and how the said partnership sustains itself. The evidence is drawn from a study of one school-community partnership in deep rural KwaZulu-Natal. From inception, the democratic government of South Africa indicated that the business of running education was not the preserve of government- it took place at the confluence of the school governing body and the government. Despite an enabling legislative framework, most school-community partnerships in South Africa do not seem to be succeeding. However, there appears to be some success ‘stories’ in this regard. The study focuses on one such ‘story’. There does not seem to be sufficient knowledge about what makes school-community partnership successful. Such knowledge is necessary if more school-community partnerships are to add value to the communities in question. This study therefore seeks to address, in a small way, the question: What makes school-community partnership work and how does it sustain itself? The study seeks to understand the findings by utilising a two-pronged theoretical framework, namely, Epstein’s (1995) spheres of influence and the asset- based approach to organisation development. The study’s findings suggest that action as opposed to rhetoric forms one of the important ingredients of this partnership. Such action is driven by visionary leadership. Through action, both the school and community enjoy tangible benefits such as the generation of employment and growing crops for food. A broad-based community asset mapping has harnessed many ‘players’ thereby allowing a multi-faceted partnership to unfold. Learner attainment has been positively impacted by these interactions. This inward looking, inclusive process in turn sustains the school-community partnership. The study recommended that plans be put in place to ensure continuity after the current crop of visionary leaders departs. A systems based approach was suggested as an interim measure.