Management strategies for effective social justice practice in schools
Van Deventer, Idilette
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Research problem: This research focused on the following problem statement: What management strategies can be developed and used to advance effective social justice practice in schools? Research aims: Arising from the problem question, the research aims were firstly to determine theoretically, the nature of social justice (Chapter Two) and secondly to identify and analyse theoretically, the determinants that contribute to social justice practices (Chapter Three). This was done by means of a comprehensive literature review. The third aim was to qualitatively analyse effective social justice praxis in selected schools in the North-West and Western Cape Provinces (Chapter Four and Five). From the analysis and literature review, management strategies for effective social justice practice in schools (Chapter Six) were developed as part of the empirical investigation. Research methodology: The empirical investigation realised the third aim, to analyse qualitatively effective social justice praxis in selected schools by means of individual and focus group interviews which were based on the philosophical paradigm of a constructivist-grounded theory and a hermeneutic, phenomenological methodology that enabled me to listen and be part of the discursive portrayals of the participant-principals’ effective social justice praxis. The qualitative data collection and methodology entailed considerations with regard to ethical conduct between myself and the role-players, i.e. the researcher, the Ethics Committee (NWU Faculty of Education Sciences), the role of departmental officials, the role of participant principals, and documentation used. Attention was paid to determine the target population, participant and sample selection from the North-West and Western Cape provinces in accordance with predetermined criteria. These criteria were, inter alia, that these principals would: have a proven track record to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of justice and social justice; would adhere to and implement legal determinants of social justice praxis with regard to the constitutional values and human rights; provide proven evidence of social justice praxis as equality, human dignity and freedom; implement political imperatives such as the Manifesto on Values, Education for All; acknowledge the need for fair distribution and educational transformation; provide a moral basis for recognition, identity formation and social justice praxis; apply a deliberative democratic praxis; promote accountability, school achievement, and as prospective and transformative leaders believe in and practice an embracing social justice. The researcher prepared the necessary documentation, the interview protocol and interview schedule to enter the field, as well as entering the field of research (principals at schools and district offices) to conduct and record the interviews which she afterwards transcribed. The method of qualitative data analysis included three phases: Phase I that considered the first hearing-reading, Atlas.ti™ dry-run and initial code-lists; Phase II, the translation processes, and Phase III, the abstraction and crystallisation processes. The criteria for soundness were established in the account of authentic validity and credibility of the study. The collected qualitative data was analysed by means of the Atlas.ti™ software programme as a result of which seven themes and three sub-themes for each theme emerged. These themes were the principal and social justice praxis, learners, education in general, constitutional values, educational partners, the government and political establishments, and social justice: its ontology and praxis. Development of management strategies: Education is about understanding and this study presented those management strategies that culminated in answers to the fundamental question: “What management strategies can be developed and used to advance effective social justice practice in schools?” The development of management strategies are the result of the literature review and the empirical investigation. The strategy development process consisted of a three-phase strategy framework: strategy planning (aims and objectives), strategy implementation (action plan and persons), and strategy evaluation. From this process, seven aims were developed in accordance with the seven identified themes: the principal, the learners, education in general, Constitutional values, partners in education, government, political and union matters, and the ontology and praxis of social justice. These management strategies include inter alia: • Optimising the school principal’s virtues of responsibility, authenticity and presence as gemeinschaft (community) relationships to ensure effective social justice praxis (§5.2). • Inculcate a disciplined school environment for learners to embrace human diversity and dignity, democracy, and Ubuntu-principles (§5.3) to optimise effective social justice praxis. • Influence education in general - system and structures - to optimise effective social justice praxis (§5.4). • Foster constitutional values and human rights as effective social justice praxis (§5.5). • Establish a social justice culture amongst educational partners who are essential to school development and governance to optimise effective social justice praxis (§5.6). • Convince government and union officials and influence political matters to serve the best interest of the child (§5.7) to ensure social justice praxis. • Actualise management strategies for social justice praxis that epitomise compassion, love, care and human rights in a participative and respectful environment (§5.8). • These management strategies were described as techniques or aims, objectives and action steps to provide answers to the questions where and how, which determined on which level or levels these strategies were to be performed. Main findings: • At a conceptual and a theoretical level: Conceptually and theoretically this study established, for the first time, specific determinants of social justice praxis (Chapters Two and Three) and its management. This contribution is found in the syntheses that followed each conceptual discussion of justice (§2.2.7) and social justice (§2.3.4), as well as the syntheses and evaluation of these determinants (§3.2-§3.4) for social justice praxis. These determinants may be regarded as an attempt at purified, cleansed theorising with respect to social justice praxis. This study found that social justice does exist in the hearts of the principals who took part in this study and that social justice belongs to all learners, to all of humanity, whoever they are or whatever their circumstances may be. Social justice is, essentially, embodied and lived love-in-practice towards all. However, the effectiveness of social justice praxis is usually determined by pragmatic circumstances that dictate the scale and scope of its efficacy. This study found that social justice praxis in schools should deviate from a mere legalistic or juridical notion because it progressed beyond the conceptual boundaries and theoretical limits of juristic thinking towards an attempt at linking social justice praxis to a humanising pedagogy. As a consequence, social justice in this research cuts across all man-made barriers: it has become a prospective notion that reflects its restorative and transformational nature and role. • At a strategic level: Strategically, this research found that the possibility of various cycles of action research in schools as well as in higher education institutions exists. The seven themes could be viewed in isolation, but if regarded, as found in this research, as seven levels that build upon each other and whose strengths or weaknesses are interdependent, it becomes self-evident that social justice forms the basis of cohesive and holistic social justice praxis. The seven strategies (§5.2-§5.8) developed in this research may, in future, inform research and praxis in schools and higher learning institutions in order to confirm or refute the theory presented herewith. • At policy-making level: This study has implications for policy design and management development, not only at basic education level, but also at national level. This study found that social justice specifically, has neither adequately, nor officially been addressed in relevant policies. If policy amendments were to be made and management strategies for social justice praxis in schools become an essential part of national policy, it will have implications at the level of further professional development of school principals, such as the current ACE School Leadership Programme. In addition, teachers’ in-service professional development will have to include these management strategies in the offering of short courses. Furthermore curriculum changes will have to follow to incorporate pre-service or initial training programmes of Higher Education institutions that offer teacher training programmes which may have a snowball effect at provincial and school curricula levels. Another important finding of this research is that, in future, the binding agent amongst schools may yet prove to be social justice and not geo-social and/or socio-economic markers, as is the case at present. In this manner social justice may become a lived curriculum that will permeate the entire education system in South Africa, but more so, will permeate the school culture of every school. Recommendations: A management strategy for effective social justice praxis in schools should be developed at national level but specifically to schools should be tailor-made for each school, because social justice praxis becomes visible in the acts of individual men and women, girls and boys, who regard the other as equally well as the self and therefore the following recommendations are important: • Continuous professional development of principals and teachers. • The right to education and its praxis to ensure the best interest of the child should be incorporated in the Life Orientation curriculum. • Have a collective vision of schools that truly strive, cherish and inculcate a pedagogy of social justice praxis to ensure that education is life-generating, life engendering, causing life or life awakening (onderwys is lewe wek). • Fairness as a moral construct should be visible in institutions where values of fairness, equality and social justice permeate the institution and provide a moral and structural frame for judgements based on the principle of fiduciary trust. • Schools should become community hubs as centrifugal force that embraces views on African culture, Ubuntu principles and Indigenous Knowledge Systems. • Create district-wide power teams that will train teachers in positive conduct as well as assist and provide interventions. • Principals and teachers have to take responsibility and agency for social justice pedagogy.
- Education 
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