The dynamics of leading in rural contexts: narratives of primary school Principals.
Ncokwana, Zamokwakhe Thandinkosi.
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The South African public education system, is a two-tiered education system, comprising the poor schools and the least poor schools. The former are ranked quintiles 1, 2 and 3 while the latter are ranked quintile 4 and 5. Quintile 1 schools, in the main, are found in rural locales. Quintiles 4 and 5 are mainly located in urban areas. Primary schools located in rural contexts contend with a myriad of challenges including poverty, unemployment, constrained resource and poor infrastructural capacities aggravated by their geographic landscape. While contending with these adversities, they are expected to perform at a similar level as their counterparts in urban contexts. Given these challenges, these schools are expected to be dysfunctional and perform poorly. However, there are pockets of schools which are functional and able to perform at more or less the same level as schools in other contexts. This study explores the lived experiences of school principals leading primary schools in rural contexts. The study sought to narratively understand the dynamics of leading in rural contexts. It is positioned within the interpretivist paradigm. Methodologically, the study employed narrative inquiry. Four primary school principals leading in rural context were purposively selected in the Ilembe District. Life story interviews, artefact inquiry and collage inquiry were used to generate field texts (data). Research texts were thematically analysed. The key findings of the study revealed that the leadership practices of school principals are influenced by who they are which is characterised by multiple identities. Therefore, who they are prescribes how they think and what they do. The school principals draw on their personal and professional meanings and understandings of selves to inform the leadership practices that they enact. The school principals’ personal and professional selves draw from each other in the process of constructing meanings and understandings. The interplay between leadership and rural context shapes and reshapes the school principals’ leadership practices. To this end, leadership practices are context-laden. Clearly, leadership discourse can no longer relegate context to the peripheral ranks. The study generated a model of leadership called Cross-cutting and Multi-agency Leadership (CML).