Leading in Uncertainty

Broadcast date: 5 September 2020

Frustrated and overwhelmed

Frustrated and Overwhelmed

Covid-19 has stretched school leadership teams in ways no one could have anticipated. The problems that were faced in the past have been superseded by those presented by the pandemic, and with no precedent on which to base a way forward, many principals and teachers are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

Dealing with regularly changing circumstances and regulations, and what this uncertainty means for schools, has been especially difficult. In the early days of the pandemic, says Dawn, a principal from the Western Cape, “the expectations placed on us were so enormous that sometimes we felt as if we were drowning, but there was never anybody to save us from drowning. We need to find and wade our way through, considering all parties at our school.”

Fear has also become commonplace. Nelisa, a primary school teacher from the Eastern Cape, says that she is afraid of contracting the virus from her learners and, as a result, is interacting with them differently. “I can’t assist them the way I would like to because I’m afraid to get too close to them,” she says. Nelisa has also lost colleagues to Covid-19, which has also affected her deeply. “We never know who is next and we are living in fear.”

But this is not to suggest that there are not ways to work around the uncertainty that Covid-19 has caused.  

Leading during these times requires constant communication, building trust, and being confident that we have the collective ability to innovative and solve problems. Micarlo, the chairperson of a school governing body in Cape Town has also emphasised the importance of proper planning. Together, his team has worked to develop “a plan that is consistent, a plan that is concise, and a plan that is able to see us rise above the circumstances,” he says. This process has helped his school immeasurably.

Dr Witten, visiting professor at the University of Cape Town Business School, who has worked extensively on school leadership in both South Africa and the United States, stresses the need for close collaboration between school management teams and district departments. “When this relationship of support really takes place between the district and the school, it will go a long way in strengthening school functionality and effectiveness,” he says.

If these measures are put in place, school leadership teams will be able to adapt to these changing times better, and will find ways to serve their teachers, parents and learners successfully.

Read the blog about this topic here.

The power of planning and support

The power of planning and support

Leading in Uncertainty podcast

Listen to Phepha uFunde episode one in full here:

Leading in Uncertainty - Covid-19 - Phepha uFunde

Advisory sites

Department of Basic Education

Psychological Society of South Africa
South African Depression and Anxiety Group
World Health Organization
South African Coronavirus Resource Portal

National Department of Health

Seed Education Trust