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A critique of school leadership : life histories of selected principals in Kwazulu-Natal.

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The central aim of this study was to describe through qualitative inquiry how school principals have dealt with the post-1994 changes in school governance and the change in their leadership roles as leaders and professional managers of public schools, and how these changes have impacted on the construction of their professional identities and redefinition of their leadership roles. The critical research questions that guided the study were: (1) How do principals interpret or understand their roles and functions as leaders in the democratised system which relies on participatory management approaches? (2) To what extent can the principal’s beliefs, personal and cultural values and interests shape or influence his or her leadership style? (3) To what extent has the principal’s socialization into the teaching profession shaped his or her self-definition and professional identity? (4) How do principals transform their personal knowledge into professional practice? A qualitative, interpretive research design that made use of stories, accounts, and narratives was used to investigate different areas of the leadership process in KwaZulu- Natal schools. Six principals were selected to participate in the research process using the purposive or selective sampling procedure. The procedure was judgemental because it was more informed by the researcher’s experience and knowledge of the area of study to select cases that are representative or typical. The selection was based on racial demographics of the province, socialization of the participants into the teaching profession, ex-departments of education of the apartheid era, experience of managing public schools in the old and the new democratic political dispensations, and experienced female principals. The data analysis in this study borrowed from three prominent approaches to life history analysis, namely: the realist, neo-positivist and narrative approaches. The outcomes of this study identified that the selected principals’ socialization into education was shaped and directed by their parents. This challenges the belief that the principals’ social lives, on entering the teaching profession, are determined and shaped by the structured rules and educational policies. The study also shows that the trends towards democracy and participation in work places have caused the situational approaches of leadership to be replaced by structural functional approaches that attempt to respond to current changes in education. The combination of the principals’ experiences with what was expected from them influenced the construction of their professional identities and the way they interpret their professional roles. The principals’ life stories revealed that after twelve years of democracy, they were still struggling with the implementation of the democratic education policies.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, 2007.


School principals--KwaZulu-Natal--Biography., Educational leadership--South Africa., Theses--Education.