Principals as professional leaders : implications for management of rural secondary schools during transition.
Bhengu, Thamsanqa Thulani.
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This study is about documenting rural principals' stories, and voices regarding their experiences of education policy changes and how such changes are impacting on their day-to-day management lives. In capturing their experiences and voices, interpretive approach was used to allow the researcher to get behind their skins and faces and be one of them. Rapid changes sometimes overwhelm those people tasked with the responsibility of implementing changes. The study involved 5 cases, purposefully chosen, in the rural district around Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Formal and informal conversations were held with principals, School Management Team members, and educators. These conversations were complemented by planned participatory observations, as well as, unannounced visits to the sampled schools. The data produced have shown similarities and differences in these rural communities. They are deeply poor, suffering from the lack of shelter, food, health, clean water, transport, electricity and services. HIV/AIDS is taking enormous tolls in every aspect of community. Unemployment is high and emigration of working-age adults disrupts families, which are left largely as comprised of grandmothers and children. Literacy levels are high, at the same time, the sense of community from the past, now and future is generally high. The communities share similar histories as part of the Zulu nation, through colonialism and apartheid, political-cultural struggles, of the African National Congress/lnkatha Freedom Party conflict, the pressures of modernisation and globalisation. They live on Tribal Authority land, in a confusion of traditional leadership and democratic governance. They see themselves as marginalised, and they are. The socio-cultural, and political confusion is everywhere, at many different levels. Schools themselves are Western imports in their structure and purposes with a history in the rural areas being kept from community life; the language of schooling is not the language of the community, and neither is the content of the curriculum the knowledge in the community. There are commonalities and differences between schools. While similarities are clear; they share conception of 'school', all are situated in similar communities, with educators sharing similar backgrounds and education, there are also differences, for example, resources and facilities they have, matric results, the nature of School Governing Bodies and differences of priorities, the fundamental differences in management and leadership styles used, namely 'open-participatory', 'closed-participatory' and 'authoritative-participatory' styles. The data have indicated that these principals are highly intentional leaders, with their intentionality playing themselves out differently at school level, largely because of their different personalities and histories. Rural principals are working under challenging environment, fending for themselves, and resort to doing things their own ways, irrespective of policy dictates. The Education Department plays an obstructionist role instead of supporting quality education provision. Principals use unconventional strategies to move forward. Recommendations to the department include the following: consult properly before policies can be implemented; consider diversity; provide thorough training for educators in order that Outcomes Based Education can be effectively implemented. Recommendations to secondary schools principals include the following: use available policies to get schools functional; involve educators meaningfully in governance and management; be creative and innovative, and try to understand demands of agency of transformation.
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