Repository logo

Enhancing functionality of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of education during the corona virus pandemic using the viable system model.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Organisational functionality is critical for ensuring that the organisation remain focussed in ensuring its performance mandate especially in times of disruption such as the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters caused by floods, earthquakes, and civil unrest. In times of disruption, “organisation could enhance functionality by applying the Viable System Model. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZNDOE), experienced functionality related challenges during the corona virus pandemic which hindered the delivery of teaching and learning across most schools. The aim of the study was therefore to enhance the functionality of the department using the VSM. The target population comprised 80 senior managers and school principals. The study employed an exploratory research design gathering data from 14 participants who were purposively selected. Data was collected by interviewing the 14 participants. Data was analysed thematically using the NVivo 12 model. The study revealed that KZNDOE was not ready to deal with the complexity presented by the coronavirus pandemic ultimately hindering the performance of teaching and learning throughout KwaZulu-Natal schools. The pandemic was a complex emergence which the department could not handle using its simplistic functional organisational structure. Despite the challenges, the department made progressive responses that include closure of schools, establishing new structures, introducing the virtual office, speeding the procurement process of basic resources such as personal protective equipment (PPEs), and trimming the curriculum. The study however indicated that the closure of the core function of teaching was a major blow as teaching and learning needed to continue despite the pandemic to allow natural progression of learning from one grade to another. The study also revealed that the major challenges faced by the department include the shortened curriculum, implementing the social enrichment programmes, inadequate classroom space for rotational classes, inadequate funding and increase in the learning gap between quintile 4, 5 schools and quintiles 1, 2, and 3. To address the challenges, the focus of the department was on increasing funding to procure critical resources. To achieve performance, the study revealed that critical role players such as the department of health, education, senior managers, school principals, educators and learners were to play a role. The study recommended the need to review the functional structure which was last reviewed in 2011 to one that is adaptive in responding to the complex environment. The review would include the change of structure by creating new structures within the department that can deal with the pandemic. Thus, the study recommended a restructure to viable, and adaptive structure that seeks to enhance functionality and performance anchored in an effective coronavirus pandemic communication network, empowerment structures for educators, structures to provide for remote learning and prelearning materials. The study however recommended that a similar study could be conducted in other provinces to have a balanced view before making national inferences.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.