Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Preparing School Leaders in Post-Apartheid South Africa: A Survey of Leadership Preferences of Principals in Western Cape

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Preparing School Leaders in Post-Apartheid South Africa: A Survey of Leadership Preferences of Principals in Western Cape

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This study examined the self-reported leadership practices of a group of principals in South Africa. All subjects completed the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), which measured five characteristics of leadership practice; challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart. ANOVA procedures revealed no differences (.05 level) between two groups of school leaders based on higher education institution attended. Age range was related to "encouraging the heart" and gender to "enabling action."

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This is a study to determine leadership preferences of school leaders in Mitchell's Plain, a disadvantaged area of Western Cape province. To better understand school leaders, their responses to the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) were evaluated based on institution of last degree, gender, union membership, race/ethnicity, age range, and whether they were principals or deputy principals (role). The null hypotheses are that there are no significant differences among the leaders based on these factors.

The Need for Change

Children in township schools are eloquent in expressing their fears of violence and hopes for the future. They demonstrate the need for change and the challenge that faces the education system. Here is an example of their stories, written in their own words toward the end of the apartheid regime. "When I am old I would like to have a wife and to children a boy and a girl and a gib house and to dogs and freedom My friends and I would like to meat together and tok" (Moagi, 8 years old).

This is representative of school children's voices in South Africa, taken from Two dogs and freedom: Children of the townships speak out, 1986 (pp. 6-55). The passage portrays students' state of mind and indirectly, the state of education in the townships less than a generation ago. These children indicate the need for a monumental restructuring of the education system before each person can feel safe, be educated, and feel like a contributing part of society.

Such changes will not come quickly or easily. Nkabinde (1997) wrote to provide "insights and challenges in seeking alternatives to Bantu education" (p. xiv). She noted, "Apartheid, which has dominated South Africa for decades and has imposed a deleterious effect on the educational system, is beginning to crumble. Nevertheless, the negative effects of apartheid and apartheid education are incalculable and will persist long after the demise of the system" (p. 19).

Asmal and James (2001) were also critical of the school system developed during apartheid. Because of the assault on civil life in the townships, little real education was possible. They noted, "The democratic government inherited the black school not as a place of learning, but as a place of struggle and resistance" (p. 198).

Why is it that the transformation of South African society is so important? To overcome its hierarchical, paternalistic, violent, racist, and inefficient history (Department of Education, 1995, Carrim and Shalem, 1999, Jansen, 1990). The old system institutionalized a system of preferences and inequalities that created social and intellectual rifts among racial groups. The white population was relatively pampered and privileged. All others were, to different degrees, officially treated as inferior beings. King (1998) explained the situation as follows. "It must also be recalled that South Africa entered this new policy environment with a human development situation in which the black population was on par with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the white population on par with Canada" (p. 4).

Significance of the Study

By 1996, one third of the principals in the Western Cape were new to the job and most of these were persons of color (Gelderbloem, 1996). It is important to know the characteristics of this new generation of school leaders. …

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