Better Schools:
Resource Materials for School Heads in Africa

Following the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990, education ministries, international agencies, and NGOs have agreed action plans to improve the capacity and performance of schools. The plans recognise that the school principal carries prime responsibility for creating an effective educational environment. Without the necessary skills, many heads are overwhelmed by the task.

In Africa, the situation is particularly acute. In rapidly expanding systems, experienced and skilled teachers are customarily appointed to run complex schools without adequate preparation and back-up support. Alex Dadey and Clive Harber improved our understanding of school management by describing the unique work patterns of heads in Africa in Training and Professional Support for Headship in Africa. Their work proved that management techniques appropriate elsewhere cannot be imported unmodified into African systems, with their very intricate demands. They also demonstrated that strategies for training and supporting school heads were generally inadequate throughout Africa.

The Commonwealth Secretariat/Unesco/SIDA/GTZ Training and Support Programme for School Heads in Africa was initiated by the Commonwealth Education Programme in 1991, following a plea from the Inspectorate in Uganda to find ways of assisting school heads to do their job better. In Africa, it was apparent that local or national workshops, the traditional way of providing training for a relatively small proportion of heads, were clearly inadequate: they were expensive, and could cover only a few heads. (There are perhaps 18,000 school principals in Kenya and Uganda, for example, and over 40,000 in Nigeria.) New strategies were needed. Investigation also highlighted the lack, across Africa, of good quality, comprehensive and user-friendly resource materials on school management. Such materials as were available tended to be outdated, in short supply, and in many cases written in language ill-suited to busy heads. Nevertheless, several countries (Zimbabwe, Uganda and Botswana, for example) had begun to prepare manuals for school principals.

The joint Programme undertook to work with English-speaking African ministries, to analyse the way they trained school heads, given available resources. At the same time, writing teams in seven countries, with the support of their Ministries of Education, began drafting resource materials covering the primary aspects of running a school in Africa. Problems of producing and distributing training materials were also addressed.

Three regional workshops were held, attended in the main by a regular core of Chief Inspectors, Directors of Schools and teacher educators, as well as heads and representatives of associations of school heads. The workshops provided opportunities to share experience, to critique the work of the writing teams, and to hammer out clearer and more effective strategies for training, and for materials production and distribution. The meetings are described in three reports, available from the Commonwealth Secretariat, which outline the Training and Support Programme for School Heads more fully, and give details of related publications on teacher management.

The training modules were written, trialled, edited and designed, and made ready for presentation at the final Commonwealth Africa workshop in Botswana in March 1993. They constitute a remarkable testimony to the possibilities for effective co-operation among education professionals across the sub-continent.

In practical terms, the work has been co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Education Programme. But nothing could have been achieved without the very generous contribution of participating Ministries of Education. Permanent Secretaries have assigned senior ministry staff and school heads to work on the materials; they have committed funds from overstretched budgets to support the writing teams; they have made trialling and testing of the materials possible; and they have released their staff for the regional sessions. My thanks go first of all, therefore, to the Permanent Secretaries of education ministries in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe for their co-operation and unfailing support.

We are of course particularly grateful to the team leaders from those countries for adding an additional assignment to their already heavy schedules, and persisting against very tight deadlines: Mr Reuben Motswakae, Deputy Director, Teaching Service Management, Botswana; Mr John Atta-Quayson, Deputy Director-General, Ghana Education Service; Mr John Lodiaga, Director, Kenya Education Staff Institute; Mr Len le Roux, Deputy Director, Rossing Foundation, Namibia; Professor Etim N E Udoh, Deputy Director, Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and Alhaji Garba S Kuta, Deputy Director (Teacher Education), Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria; Mr James Nkata, District Education Officer, Mpigi, Ministry of Education, Uganda; and Mr R G Sisimayi, Deputy Chief Education Officer, (Standards Control Unit and Professional Administration), Ministry of Education and Culture, Zimbabwe.

The Programme has demonstrated the practical advantages of working co-operatively. Participating ministries were supported throughout by generous financial contributions from the Swedish International Development Authority, the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ), and Unesco. Joint funding has made possible the development of a regional strategy to address the needs of school heads, and laid the foundation for bilateral support for national initiatives. We are confident that such partnerships set the tone for future collaboration.

Finally, in the background, three consultants have provided expertise in bringing our work to completion: Richard White of Moray House Institute of Education; Bob Smith of Bristol University's School of Education; and Suzie Rodwell. We thank them all. Responsibility for this work within the Education Programme has rested with Carol Coombe and Jakes Swartland.

Peter Williams
Education Programme
Human Resource Development Group
Commonwealth Secretariat

January 1993