Dynamics of school-based management in previously disadvantaged schools in South Africa
Horne, Johann Nico
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School-based management has become a common global trend within the educational sphere, with institutional autonomy as the major educational reform. Post-apartheid education reform in South Africa shows strong decentralisation inclinations in an effort to redress past inequalities and to ensure comparable standards across all schools. During the previous political dispensation, principals in South Africa executed their duties with virtually sole authority within the dictatorial prescribes of the central government. They, furthermore, were not obliged to actively involve other stakeholders, such as educators, parents and learners, in school affairs. Decentralisation within education reform legislation necessitates that the role of salient stakeholders of schools be redefined to give true meaning to elements of democracy as prescribed by South African legislation. This research study is grounded within a theoretical framework that focuses on the concepts, characteristics, assumptions, theories and processes of school-based management. In addition, a qualitative research design was employed. The sample was purposive and consisted of principals and school management team members of three previously disadvantaged schools. A thorough study of the status of principals, deputy principals and heads of departments was made, as this is articulated in the South African legislation and current literature. Three principals and one head of department participated in individual interviews, and two focus group interviews were also conducted with deputy principals and heads of departments of two of the selected schools. In order to confirm and validate the data that were gathered during the interviews, a documentary analysis was performed. Various themes and subthemes emerged from the qualitative research, which primarily centred on the role and impact of stakeholders within a school-based management strategy. Possible impediments relating to a previously disadvantaged context were identified as well as how schools are managed and, in particular, the management by principals and school management teams in these confinements. The role of other stakeholders, such as district officials, was also expounded upon, as well as how they currently assist schools to implement school-based management. The perceptions of principals and school management teams on the current assistance being provided and how they would like to be assisted were also recorded. Another important aspect that the research uncovered was how previously disadvantaged schools frequently excel, despite the shortcomings they may experience. School-based management within a South African context can only work in previously disadvantaged schools if current challenges are acknowledged and addressed by policymakers. All pertinent school leaders of previously disadvantaged schools, such as principals, school management teams and school governing bodies, need to be adequately and regularly trained, based on their unique competencies to enhance a successful school-based management strategy in these schools.
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