«February 2015 Volume 5 Issue 1 ISSN: 2146-7463 JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL AND INSTRUCTIONAL STUDIES IN THE WORLD February 2015, ...»
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Abstract Recent research in South Africa shows that many school principals and their management teams miss meaningful parental participation in school governance. The parents and community tends to be aloof especially in historically disadvantaged schools. Arguably, parental involvement is critical in all schools and in an unequal society this becomes very critical; almost a determinant of learner achievement.
This study reports on the findings of a study that was conducted in a South African rural area. Five principals raised concerns about the conspicuous absence of parents in school governance and they attributed underperformance of their schools’ effectiveness to this. The study sought to determine how parents saw their role in governance and management. A qualitative study was conducted to investigate what the district officials, principals and their school management teams expected from parents. The parents highlighted a number of aspects on what could be done to involve them, including the use of traditional leaders in fostering collaboration. There was also a strong case for schools to embrace African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) to make schools more relevant and meaningful.
Key Words: Indigenous knowledge; Cultural capital; School leadership; Community involvement.
RURAL SCHOOL CHALLENGES AND THEIR LEGACYMuch has been done by government since the end of apartheid education. Policies have been introduced to address inequalities in education to ensure that education becomes a vehicle of democracy in the society. Yet despite these endeavours, there are still schools that are under-resourced and are still facing challenges.
Among these are hundreds of rural schools in South Africa. Apartheid failed to address the challenges of difference among schools. Motala and Pampallis (2001) contend that learners under Apartheid education system were faced with inequality regarding access to education with poor provision of resources. Recently, Fleisch (2008:1) has argued that South Africa has two education systems; the first has better resources in former white schools with better performing learners. The second one comprises of poorly resourced schools, mostly in historically black African schools. Christie (2008: 101) also highlights the need to recognize the differences between poor and affluent schools. Furthermore, she states that schools in poor and disadvantaged communities are seldom well resourced as schools in wealthier areas. In most cases rural schools are the worst far below the level of many poor urban schools.
Generally, school principals in South Africa are faced with a number of challenges and this even more daunting for rural schools principals. In the face of educational changes school principals and their management teams
have to use various strategies to ensure that their teams become change agents or agents of change. However, in rural schools where there are challenges such as lack of basic resources and lack of cooperation from burnt out teachers with low morale change initiatives can be stalled. This is even more so when the parents are not playing any role. The teachers’ sense of professionalism and potential to share leadership roles is usually lacking in a number of schools where teachers are despondent due to poor conditions. Many underperforming principals and other school managers frequently report work overload.
The main questions asked in this study are:
• What solutions do rural parents have in enhancing school management and leadership?
• How do principals see the role of parents in leading the schools?
SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS AND PARENTAL INVOLVEMENTLareau and McNamara (1999) state that schools usually reproduce inequality and that learners from backgrounds which have more valuable social and cultural capital tend to fare better in school. These writers also cite others who have identified critical class differences in parents’ and learners’ attitudes toward schools and showing that these class differences affect the learners’ progress in school. Some research in South Africa has shown how the social and cultural capital negatively influences parental involvement in schools (Singh, Mbokodi & Msila, 2004; Msila, 2005; Msila, 2009). Bourdieu (1983) defines the terms cultural capital and social capital. These are both aspects that poor parents are unlikely to have. Cultural capital refers to something that can be acquired to a varying extent, depending on the period, the society and the social class, in the absence of any deliberate inculcation and therefore unconsciously (Bourdieu, 1983). This author also defines the social capital as the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition. Poor families with no social capital or cultural capital schools remain one of the few mechanisms that are able to provide a better life (Mortimore, 483).
Ball, Bowe and Gerwitz (1995: cite Bourdieu who states that the working class ways of life when it comes to schooling remain largely organised around the practical order of simply getting by. The choice of school has simply to fit into the practicalities of getting by rather than into some grander social agenda of new and rarer distinct goods. School has to be “fitted” into a set of constraints and expectations related to work roles, family roles, the sexual division of labour and the demands of household organisation (Ball et al. 1995:411). Ball et al.
continue to state that schooling in working class families is usually not related to long range planning but very much to the present. The poor parents’ aspirations are often vague and typically limited by the wants and needs of the children themselves. Reimers (1999) also argues that education and poverty are related in a number of ways. Poor children are raised in homes where there is low cultural capital and such children end up having low educational opportunities. “In turn, as the children of the poor develop insufficient skills and knowledge to gain access to high productivity jobs and to transfer cultural capital directly to their children, their low education levels ‘cause’ poverty to be reproduced between generations” (Reimers 1999: 536).
Parental involvement in schools is informed by all of these factors.
The sample of five schools was selected through purposive random sampling. This form of sampling involves random selection of a small sample and it has much emphasis on information-rich sample and not on generalising to the broader population (Struwig & Stead, 2004). The study was an ethnographic study and this is a form of qualitative research approach that studies the culture and customs of groups of people. Brink (2000) points out that an underlying assumption of the ethnographer is that the behaviour of people can only be understood within the cultural context in which it occurs. The ethnographer looks at how culture impacts in the shaping of the experience. The culture under scrutiny was that of five rural schools in two adjoining villages in the rural Eastern Cape. In each of the five schools, the principals were interviewed. Three of the schools were high schools and two were primary schools. In addition to the five principals, 21 parents were interviewed in a period of twelve weeks. In four schools four parents were interviewed and in the fifth one, five parents were interviewed. All these parents belonged to the school governing body. After hearing about the influence 28 Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications / www.ijonte.org
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL AND INSTRUCTIONAL STUDIESIN THE WORLD February 2015, Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Article: 04 ISSN: 2146-7463 of the headman in schools, the researcher also interviewed the headman. The headman is the main representative of the chief of the area. All the interviews with parents were conducted in IsiXhosa and were later translated by the researcher when he was transcribing them. The parents were informed about the written notes and they confirmed what they said during the interviews.
1. The five principals and their schools
Below the schools are given pseudonyms to protect their identity:
2. The Parents There were 21 parent representatives who were participants in the study. Significant about these participants was that 14 of them were women and only seven males. These 21 were the ones who were interviewed. Of the 21 parents:
Two had grade 12 qualifications Three had grade 10 Ten had grade 6 to grade 8 education, Three had “some primary education” (between grade 1 and grade 4) Three had never been to school
The rural schools shared many common aspects with the participants stressing that poverty of the families made it difficult to run the schools. The principals stated that it was challenging to lead schools without the parents. All the three high schools had never had more than 40 % pass rate in their grade 12 results. Usually grade 12 results are used as yardstick for school success in South Africa. The principals concurred that had there been more parental involvement the picture would have been different. Some of the aspects that are common in all the schools were late coming of the learners, high absenteeism, unsuitable and unsafe buildings.
It appears that the school has tried so many times to lure the parents to take part in administering the school.
The principal initially had novel ideas of raising funds for the school. He tried a vegetable garden in an attempt to raise school funds. The garden had beetroot, spinach, potatoes, cabbage and mealies. The caretaker was asked to tend the garden and look after the plants. When these were ripe, the school sold them. Raffle was also tried to boost the coffers for only ten percent normally pays the school fund (of R25.00) at the beginning of the year. Parents hardly supported these initiatives. Interestingly, the parents appeared when the learners’ representative body raised concerns that the principal had mismanaged the funds.
Some of the factors that prevailed in these schools are dilapidated structures. In Rose Primary and Nyibiba High schools, the principals have tried to add new mud structures because the teachers do not have staff rooms. The principal in Rose Primary operate from her bakkie which acts as her office. Many classrooms in Nyibiba, Rose and Lilac schools do not have doors because the vandals had stolen these. In Rose and Marigold the vandals have been stealing taps linked to rain drums. As a result the principals in this study concurred that they needed the community to fight the vandalism that prevailed. The principals stated that apart from poverty of the families that they had to contend with, there was always the low morale among teachers, the noninvolvement of the district officials, the aloofness of parents and learners who appear to be trapped in low academic performance.
29 Copyright © International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications / www.ijonte.org