A rather compelling case has been made for the ‘unnatural’ introduction and ﬂawed recruitment processes of school principals in South Africa. Tony Bush noted that “school leaders begin their professional careers as teachers and progress to headship via a range of leadership tasks and roles” (Tony Bush et al. 2011).*
This “exit” from their familiar teacher network of friends have not been extensively researched, but it is very likely that the new “tasks and roles” (Tony Bush et al. 2011)* of the ‘new journey’ for the principal comes with a range of complex psychological ramiﬁcations of which loneliness is a real possibility. Alone he must fight for the school’s financial survival. While everyone else sleeps their full 8 hours a day, she is up in the middle of the night, in solitary pursuit for solutions to teacher shortages, large class sizes and a never-ending set of demands from the department of education, the parents and the community.
This lonely road feels even worse in the absence of a home, a hub of comrades wherein she can be herself and ﬁnd support from peers who can support with strength and upliftment that leads to rejuvenation and empowerment.
Truthfully, too few leaders have access to, or are bold enough to participate in such a needed ecosystem and too many leaders believe the myth that they are untouchable – unaffected by the perils of loneliness. The truth, of course, stands tall against this myth.
How then, does one lead wisely in a world where loneliness is a real threat?
Bush, T et al. (2011) Preparing new principals in South Africa: the ACE: School Leadership Programme1, http://sajournalofeducation.co.za/index.php/saje/article/viewFile/356/236 (Accessed 8 March, 2016)
The emergencies that school principals wrestle with each day, demand a constant ﬂow of choices and decisions, or as one principal described it, “reactions.”
From the most mundane requests to the demands of an irate parent, the school principal must make choices each day largely around the priority of keeping everyone happy.
Dealing with the constant ‘live moment’, she develops a habit of navigating through decision-making based on emergencies. Those decisions are made on the spur of the moment, where the temptation is high to opt for shallow and short-sighted considerations. There is seldom time to reﬂect over a long-term view of the implications of decisions or careful scrutiny of the ramiﬁcations for people.
As a consequence, an abnormally high percentage of the school principal’s time is spent on making decisions as a way of stopping the bleeding, as it were. Also, this energy-zapping process leaves the principal with fewer chances to develop sound decision making processes.
Instead of consistently demonstrating a razor-sharp mind honed by a capacity to synchronize, compare, contrast and assimilate, the principal ﬁnds his mind in atrophy, blunted by trivialities and too exhausted to capably deal with the real courageous choices that she needs to make.
Tomorrow, they go through the same cycle.
How then, does one lead wisely when decision-making is so complex?
The vast amount of complexities and problems of our South African school leaders and principals are immediate and desperate.
Some of them require rather drastic interventions. It is highly likely, therefore, that leaders view their own development and growth as substantially signiﬁcant in relation to the extent to which it enables them to solve these immediate problems.
Solving problems is an indicator, as such, of the principal’s capacity to lead. Fear of being labeled a failure because of a malfunctioning school pushes most leaders to do whatever it takes to bring immediate relief.
Tomorrow, they go through the same cycle.
How then, does one lead wisely in the midst of the perils of immediacy?
There is a huge discrepancy in South Africa when it comes to the allowance of FREE wifi. FREE has it limits – we all agree. But it seems as if some limits are more restrictive than others. As sad as the implications of the probe is, the question remains, which limited-free-WIFI is the smartest?
Right now, in this our beloved country, one wifi-spot offers you a daily data quota of 50MB. In another zone, you get 500MB data per day – FREE.
If you want to take advantage of what access to knowledge can offer, or you want to motivate your students, develop your community, build and expand your small business or explore career opportunities, and do it all in a 30-day month, you’d have 1.5gb FREE per month in the one FREE-zone and you will have a whopping 15gigs in the other FREE-zone, for the same period. (1)
The Wifi-Whopper dudes describe their capacity to deliver that 16GB data as ‘clever strategy’. (2)
We need more businesses in South Africa with ‘clever strategy’ inspired by the mindset carved out in the mid-90s that “The people in this country are entitled to equitable, affordable quality and universal service in respect of information”.(3)
(1) Project Isizwe
(2) TechCentral Story
(3) Connectivity and Wisdom
Many of our reflections on the life of Nelson Mandela are deep insights into the obvious, often described in sentimental terms. But few understand, not only the ideas, but the origin and vibrant processes that shaped the ideas of Nelson Mandela. Few of us fully comprehend the secrets to how trials and struggles shaped and sharpened those ideas and even fewer grasp the difference that it is suppose to make, or supposed to have made in all of us in South Africa and in this world.
Admittedly, the goodness, the kindness and reconciliatory spirit of Nelson Mandela are the reasons why we admire him. It is sad, however, that not more of us understand the mental, academic and intellectual strain it took to arrive at such a disposition. We hardly reflect seriously over Nelson Mandela’s disciplined mental spadework, during the times where and when no one was around and how those “habits of the heart and mind” formed the pillars of his brilliance and impact.
We love the story of a forgiving Nelson Mandela, but know very little about the logic behind that forgiveness. We are blind, thinking that forgiveness is illogical. Maybe, at some level it is, and I suppose we mean that it is incredible, surprising and unexpected, especially given the fact that revenge was an expected reply in 1994.
But I am beginning to see that the incredible, surprising and unexpected response of Nelson Mandela was not a blind sweeping of transgressions underneath a mat. While he is not the first in history to do so, it is wise to acknowledge that his capacity to forgive was a deliberate intention to not hold the past atrocities against the perpetrators. Such a thoughtful, deliberate, calculated and volitional response reflect his wisdom and soundness of mind.
Our country, our world needs leaders characterized by this kind of acumen.
Describing the world as unstable and volatile, commentators and columnists sometimes point to the past as a need to look differently at the future.
In Education, for example, having been under enormous strain to cope with advances in technology, the view is that “in the past, education was about imparting knowledge. Today, it is about providing students with the tools to navigate an increasingly uncertain world.”
The complexity within this conclusion is that, firstly, it blurs an important acknowledgement that the past it refers to, is not a common global past. Pockets of excellence in different parts of the world approached education as MORE THAN just the acquisition of knowledge while others reveled in rote learning and somewhere else, proponents probably opted for an approach in between. Secondly, simply ‘imparting knowledge’ was and is a fragmented approach to education. Recent positive examples like Finland is a throwback to models of learning, that date back to some 5000 years BC when connecting knowing with doing was obvious.
The brokeness, instability and volatility in Education are therefore not only as a result of a current fragmented approach to learning, but also a consequence of an already fragmented approach to learning.
The crafty art of complaining and disputing comes naturally to all of us. None of us ever attended a School for the Art of Complaining. Yet, we are cum laude graduates with griping as a major.
These last few days, central and parts of northern Europe have been lashed with torrential rain that resulted in the deaths of at least 9 people. Earlier in the week, the French Open organisers had to cancel an entire day of tennis because of the rain. Many tennis players, especially the ones who lost, complained of the risks to their ankles and careers having been ‘forced’ to play in a drizzle. Meanwhile, nine families will have a great deal more than sprained ankles and dented careers to contend with once the rain subsides and by reports, it won’t be soon.
Sometimes, in the heat of a moment, rationality recedes, perspective perishes and a moment to show commitment to meaning and purpose is lost. Tennis event organizers have great skills, but they cannot make rain. They may exploit the circumstances and stoop to the level of your own moral deficiencies, but they cannot stop the rain. If you cannot understand that, you’ve succumbed to irrationality. The same rain that spoiled your game, devastated a home. If you cannot see that, you’ve lost perspective. Tennis stars always have a chance to let the world know that true champions value life over careers. If you cannot embrace that, then you’ve missed a chance to inspire a commitment to meaning and purpose.
Next time you’re in the heat of the moment, sing in the rain, don’t sob. Inspire us, don’t whine.