Leadership and infrastructure delivery programmes in the Sisonke District, KwaZulu-Natal Education Department.
Sisonke District is situated in a deep rural area and the poorest of the twelve education districts in KwaZulu-Natal. Illiteracy, poverty and unemployment rates are extremely high. Compounding these socio-economic ills are problems with the provision of basic physical infrastructure, maintenance and repairs. Politics have contributed to the current situation; however, it is naïve to think that politics alone is to blame for the prevailing conditions. Nine infrastructure delivery programmes are fully operational and funded. Despite such endeavours backlogs in basic infrastructure provision, maintenance and repairs persist. The situation is messy, ill-structured and unpredictable. This problematic situation is so complex, dynamic and turbulent that it seems no permanent solution has, as yet, been found. This research study investigates the perceived impact of infrastructure delivery programmes in addressing basic infrastructure backlogs with regard to the provision of classrooms, water and sanitation, electricity, laboratories, libraries, administration blocks together with maintenance and repairs at schools in the Sisonke district. Critical Systems Thinking is used as a meta-methodology that provides a specifically interpretive perspective approach which is subjective and participatory. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) has been identified and used as a suitable methodology for this messy, pluralistic and ill-defined problem situation. Its flexible and participatory nature has ensured the use of different actors’ perspectives to dig deeper and to determine the perceived issues impacting upon infrastructure delivery programmes at Sisonke schools. A qualitative research approach has been used because it is suitable for social and cultural contexts that deal with opinions, attitudes etc. A case study approach has been adopted resulting in the use of two infrastructure delivery programmes that allow for an in-depth study of the problem situation given the time and financial constraints. The study focuses on successful eradication of mud and inappropriate structures (Tonjeni Primary school in Umzimkhulu) and unsuccessful emergency repairs programmes (Bhidla Primary school in Bulwer). A purposive sampling approach has been used to identify two research sites mentioned above and sixteen respondents hoped to provide quality data. The study was further supplemented by participant observation and existing data that was drawn from minutes of meetings. The choice of two primary schools and exclusion of high schools was a matter of coincidence and it is hoped it would not adversely affect the quality of results. As facilitator, the researcher sought and was granted permission and consent from stakeholders and respondents for their participation. Thereafter, the researcher conducted unstructured interviews to get a deeper understanding of this problematic situation. The researcher drew a rich picture, formulated a root definition and determined subsequent Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) steps prior to focus group discussion. During the focus group discussion the respondents deliberated and engaged SSM steps and at an opportune time the researcher introduced his rich picture for comparative analysis and subsequently one rich picture was drawn out. The study answers questions like what perceived problems are impacting upon the infrastructure delivery programmes in the Sisonke District. The study highlighted seven problems which were divided into three main groups: the poor or broken communication system, the corruption system and the capacity or skills transfer system. Lastly, the researcher hopes to be empowered by the research skills he will use and will hopefully contribute to knowledge creation. As a District Planner the researcher’s skill will, hopefully be upgraded to enhance his service delivery capabilities.