Exploring approaches of managing school finances in a rural context: a case study of five novice principals.
Cebekhulu, Sibongiseni Derrick.
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The Department of Basic Education receives the largest budget of any government departments from the National Treasurer every year. It distributes the budgeted funds to the provincial Departments of Education, who then allocate them to schools using quintiles. The South African School Act No. 84 of 1996 mandates principals and school governing bodies to manage school funds when they reach schools. Having observed that principals have to manage school finances, this study sought to explore the approaches of managing school finances which novice principals use in a rural context. The study was guided by three questions. The first question explores the approaches that the novice principals use to manage school finances. The second question explores the intersection between rurality and the management of school finances, and the third outlines lessons that can be drawn from the ways through which novice principals manage school finances. An interpretive qualitative study using a case study methodology was used and semi-structured interviews and documents reviews were employed to generate data. Five novice principals were selected using convenience and purposive sampling. This study reveals that novice principals use the school financial management approaches of planning, organising, controlling and leading in the process of school financial management in a rural context. The rural context brought some challenges in the school financial management process, such as ranking of schools into quintiles, the level of education of school governing body members and the lack of adequate training of principals. There is a high level of unemployment, poverty and inequalities around the school communities which has led to the administrative errors by novice principals. These errors include the inability to use the “Other” budget items appropriately, improper implementation of the school budget and inability to formulate and develop school financial policy. The findings further suggest that the Department of Basic Education and Provincial Departments of Education need to develop a strategy around the practical training of principals and school governing body members on school financial management. It is recommended that Department of Basic Education review the school funding norm and to make the school financial management skills and knowledge requirements for the appointment of educators to the position of principalship. It is further recommended that principals capacitate themselves in school financial management by enrolling at the institutions of higher learning. A study on a larger population must be conducted in this phenomenon to increase knowledge about school financial management.