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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912

Abstract

VAN JAARSVELD, MC; MENTZ, PJ  and  CHALLENS, B. Mentorskap vir beginnerskoolhoofde. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.1, pp. 92-110. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2015/V55N1A7.

In South Africa, novice school principals carry an exceedingly heavy burden because of inadequate education and preparation as principals. They have not necessarily been familiarised with the demands and challenges of effective school management before their appointment, and no support in the form offormal mentorship exists for preparing them (Moorosi 2012:487). Whilst an interest in mentoring has been shown in organisations (O'Neill 2005:439), little research has been conducted into the advantages of the relationship between a mentor and a novice principal, with a view to the professional development of the latter. School principals, especially novice principals, are exposed to emotional, social and intellectual demands and challenges. Moreover, as school principal leadership has become a key factor in the improvement of schools, preparation and support are essential (Wildy & Clarke 2008:269; Wildy et al. 2010:308,309; Crawford & Cowie 2012:177). The purpose of this article is to report on an investigation into whether mentoring could support novice principals. It is important that the novice school principal's emotional intelligence (seen in self-confidence), social intelligence (evident in group management and cooperative abilities) and intellectual intelligence (seen in competencies) serve as the foundation of his/her preparation to work as school principal (Lee et al. 2013:1,2; Dwiningrum 2013:144). Unfortunately, no support is available to support the abovementioned three "pillars" during the first few years of the principal's service. Consequently, school principals are weighed down by stress, emotional, psychological and social problems (Cheung & Walker 2006:406). Recently, the focus has been on the connection between theories taught in education programmes and applied to school practice. Three over-arching theories elucidate the different facets of mentoring novice school principals, viz. the knowledge transfer theory, the social capital theory and the psychosocial theory. The principle of the first is that knowledge often takes the shape of convictions about reality (Geng et al. 2009:124). The main purpose of mentorship is to present career functions, psychosocial functions and knowledge transfer to the protégé (Rynne 2013:142; Cetin et al. 2013:1; Srivastava & Thakur 2013:17). The social capital theory states that when the quality and quantity of an existing relationship in a work environment are conducive to the success of the organisation (Van Staden 2011:41), the mentor and the protégé have a social relationship. The purpose of this theory is to strengthen cooperation, participation, social norms and values and proactive actions. Social capital is the "glue" that keeps sociality, social networks and social support together (Bester 2008:4; Dwiningrum 2013:144; Fuller 2014:132). The value of structured mentorship is found in reaching outcomes, especially by continuous support. The psychosocial theory illuminates the difficult position in which novice leadersfind themselves. Frequently, leaders are expected to give support to colleagues while they themselves are affected by daily problems (Ngamaba 2014:67). The principles of the informal knowledge transfer, social capital and psychosocial support theories are basic to the novice principals' intellectual, social and emotional preparation. The newcomers receive guidance and knowledge, protection and socio-emotional support from an experienced person while advancing in their careers (Erasmus 1993:105; Scandura & Pellegrini 2007:2; Bozeman & Feeney 2010:733; Moorosi 2012:487). Mentorship can therefore be advantageous to the preparation of novice school principals. For the purpose of this qualitative design, the opinions of the novice school principals were obtained in a milieu where their daily routines were the same (Maree 2010:259). Case studies were conducted to study the novice principals' need for support (Creswell 2009:13). Problems that they had to deal with were identified, investigated and described (Zainal 2007:1,2). An analysis of the interaction between the novice school principal and the staff was done to shed light on the issue (Babbie & Mouton 2001:281,282). The research focussed on novice school principals in the Tshwane area in South Africa. Seven novices were purposely selected to represent different cultural and race groups, gender and socio-economic backgrounds (Corbin & Strauss 2008:149). Semi-structured interviews allowed the school principals to express themselves freely (De Vos et al. 2009:296,297). Two observations were made to determine whether the participants did indeed do what they said or whether they acted differently (Corbin & Strauss 2008:29,30). It is expected from novice school principals to have the same knowledge and skills as their predecessors and to master several professional skills in a short time. The knowledge transfer theory states that knowledge takes the shape of convictions about reality and that this knowledge is processed in a given situation and applied to an own world (Geng et al. 2009:124). The findings of this investigation showed that the novice school principal is indeed bombarded by new knowledge and vocational demands, and that there is a lack of sufficient time to process the new knowledge, which can be damaging in the end. The social capital theory, on the other hand, maintains that social networks ought to support the novice school principal (Van Staden 2011:41). According to the literature, the novice school principal begins to feel isolated after his/her appointment because of the absence of supportfrom the staff and community (Lester et al. 2011:413). This investigation showed that it is indeed true. Because of the lack of approval and trust of the staff and community, novice school principals do not have good communication channels. The knowledge transfer, psychosocial and social capital theories, as it was shown by this investigation, present valuable perspectives on the issue of mentorship to novice school principals. Novice school principals, especially in South Africa, do not receive adequate preparation and training, are isolated and receive little or no social support (Boschman et al. 2013:748). They experience a lack of knowledge about how to meet daily demands and to be successful school principals. They need support, formal and informal, in the form of continuous mentorship or a mentorship programme that provides them with clear guidelines before their appointment. In the South African context, there is a need for mentorship in order to enhance the efficiency of school principal leadership and to promote learner achievements.

Keywords : Novice school principals; emotional; social and intellectual intelligence; support; knowledge transfer theory; mentorship; mentorship programmes; training; psychosocial theory; social capital theory.

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