School principals' experiences of the decentralisation policy in Zimbabwe

Masuku, Elisa (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2010-03)

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The decentralisation of power in education is part of a global process that has become part of the education reform policies of most countries. Decentralisation, which is typified by the redistribution of power to local levels, is claimed to serve a variety of ends from democratization to efficiency, empowerment of stakeholders to improved quality of education. It is, however, a complex process that is difficult to capture as power is seen to manifest in multiple ways. During the nineties Zimbabwe, against the background of a massive increase in enrolments, for a variety of reasons including the improvement of the quality of education, embarked on the re-distribution of administrative and financial power in the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. The implementation of this policy revealed major discrepancies between the intentions of government and the way it translated in educational sites. The aim of this study is to explore how the intentions of decentralisation in education as a policy aimed that the improvement of the quality of education is experienced by school principals. An interpretative methodology with in depth interviews, focus groups, some observations and document analysis were employed to engage in the debates about decentralisation. Although this was a small study the findings concurred with studies of decentralisation in other countries where it was found that the re-distribution of power in education manifests differently in different contexts in the same country. In countries such as Zimbabwe where resource limitations and restructuring concomitantly took place the experience of principals revealed that conditions arose that could not be seen to be conducive to the improvement of the quality of education such as the ambiguity of the meaning of who is responsible for what, the power struggles as government was seen to recentralise crucial roles, increased workloads of principals due to the devolving of administrative and supervisory functions to school level, loss of teachers and other specialist functionaries conducive to a drop in standards and the challenge to parents who had to contribute increasingly to enable schooling of their children. These findings are indicative of the claims from studies in other countries that decentralisation as a policy for whatever reason is seldom more than political rhetoric to decentralise conflict. Exploring the intersection between the literature on decentralisation and parental involvement of education, however, revealed the opening up of other spaces that enabled local power relations to develop in creative ways as parents got increasingly involved in schools. Apart from the challenges related to the redistribution of power as authority delegated, devolved or deconcentrated from government, this study revealed that power manifests in relations and interactions not necessarily ascribed to the intentions of policy, neither as a substance or function only.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die desentralisering van mag in die onderwys maak deel uit van ʼn wêreldwye proses van onderwyshervorming. Desentralisasie, wat deur die herverspreiding van mag na plaaslike vlakke gekenmerk word, is veronderstel om aan ʼn verskeidenheid doele te beantwoord – van demokratisering tot die verhoging van doeltreffendheid, die bemagtiging van belanghebbendes, en die verbetering van onderwysgehalte. Desentralisasie is egter ‘n komplekse proses waaraan moeilik uitvoering gegee kan word, aangesien mag in verskeie gedaantes voorkom. In die negentigerjare het Zimbabwe, teen die agtergrond van ʼn drastiese toename in inskrywings, die herverspreiding van administratiewe en finansiële mag in die Ministerie van Onderwys, Sport en Kultuur onderneem. Dié stap is aan verskillende redes toegeskryf, waaronder die verbetering van onderwysgehalte. Die toepassing van die beleid het egter groot teenstrydighede aan die lig gebring tussen die regering se voornemens, en hoe dié voornemens uiteindelik prakties in onderwysinstellings ten uitvoer gebring is. Die doel van hierdie studie is om skoolhoofde se ervaring van onderwysdesentralisasie as beleid te ondersoek. Die studie is vanuit ‘n interpreterende benadering gedoen met diepte-onderhoude, fokusgroepe, ʼn paar waarnemings sowel as dokumentontleding. Ongeag die beperkte omvang van die studie, stem die bevindinge ooreen met dié van navorsing oor desentralisasie in ander lande, waar bevind is dat herverspreiding van mag in dieselfde land in verskillende kontekste verskillend realiseer. In lande soos Zimbabwe, waar herstrukturering te midde van hulpbronbeperkinge plaasgevind het, het skoolhoofde bepaalde omstandighede ervaar wat nié die verbetering van onderwysgehalte sou kon bevorder het nie. Dít sluit in onsekerheid oor die onderskeie partye se verantwoordelikhede; die magstryd toe die regering kernrolle sentraal beheer; swaarder werklaste vir skoolhoofde nadat administratiewe en toesigfunksies na skoolvlak afgewentel is; ʼn verlies aan onderwysers en ander spesialisamptenare, wat op sy beurt standaarde laat daal het, en ouers se groter verantwoordelikheid om al hoe meer by te dra ten einde hulle kinders se opvoeding te verseker. Hierdie bevindinge strook ook met dié van studies in ander lande, naamlik dat desentralisering as ʼn beleid om watter rede ook al selde meer is as politieke retoriek ten einde konflik te desentraliseer. Nadere ondersoek van die verband tussen navorsing oor desentralisasie, en dié oor ouerbetrokkenheid by onderwys het egter daarop gedui dat desentralisering wel nuwe moontlikhede kan ontsluit vir die skeppende ontwikkeling van plaaslike magsverhoudinge namate ouers al hoe meer by skole betrokke raak. Buiten die uitdagings met betrekking tot die herverspreiding van mag namate regeringsgesag gedelegeer, afgewentel of gedekonsentreer word, dui dié studie daarop dat mag soms ook in verhoudinge en wisselwerkings geopenbaar word wat nie noodwendig met die voornemens van die beleid verband hou nie, en dit mag voorts nie as net substansie of net funksie tot uiting kom nie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1490
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