Challenges of Leadership from Narratives of Female Principals of Rural Secondary Schools in Vhembe District of South Africa

Livhalani Bridget Sinyosi, Onoriode Collins Potokri


Purpose: This study investigated the challenges school leaders in South African rural secondary schools face. The leaders in this study are female principals. Methodology: Qualitative research method was utilized. Purposive sampling procedure was used to identify and select participants. Ten (10) female principals from ten (10) secondary schools in circuits within the Vhembe district of Limpopo Province in South Africa served as the participants. Focus group discussion was used as the data collection tool. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: The study findings revealed that the major challenges facing the female principals emanate from learners’ ill-discipline and unwillingness to learn, drug, alcohol, and substance usage and abuse, lack of respect and negative attitudes from teachers, teachers’ unwillingness to work and lack of corporation, lack of acceptance within the school context and the society at large, parents unavailability and unwillingness to support learners’ education, and gender discrimination and societal stereotype. The findings show that the challenges female principals face in their leadership roles has extrapolative impact on their willingness to remain or leave leadership. Implications: By implications, dealing with the challenges through contextual support mechanism to complement affirmative policies and legislations is a good step towards gender equality ideologies that liberal feminism promotes. Originality: Till now, there are few studies about female school leaders in rural provinces of South Africa. Unique to this study, is the theoretical lens used and the district where the study was conducted.


School leaders, leadership experience, secondary school, gender discrimination, South Africa

Full Text:



Arar, K.H., & Queder, A.S. (2011). Turning points in the lives of two pioneer Arab women principals in Israel. Gender and Education, 23(4), 415-429.

Bennis, W. (1990). Replacing Pornography with Leadership Virtue. Executive Excellence, 7(12), 13-15.

Boris-Schacter, S., & Langer, S. (2006). Balanced leadership: How effective principals manage their work. Teachers College Press.

Brandl, J., Mayrhofer, W., & Reichel, A. (2008). Equal, but different? The impact of gender egalitarianism on the integration of female/male HR directors. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 23(1), 67-80.

Brink, H., Van de Walt, C., & Van Rensburg, G. (2016). Fundamentals of Research Methodology for Healthcare Professionals. Cape Town: Juta.

Cameron, M. (2006). Managing school discipline and implications for school social workers: A review of the literature. Children & Schools, 28(4), 219-227.

Chabalala, T.G. (2006). The experiences and perceptions of police members regarding the effectiveness of trauma debriefing within the South African Police Service (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pretoria).

Chisholm, L. (2001). Gender and leadership in South African educational administration. Gender and education, 13(4), 387-399.

Coleman, M., & Glover, D. (2010). Educational leadership and management: Developing insights and skills. UK: McGraw-Hill Education.

Cotter, N. (2004). Adapting authentic leadership. The Training Zone, November: 111-114.

Damon, M.H. (2008). The performance of female principals in the management of selected secondary schools in the Gauteng Province. Doctoral dissertation, University of Johannesburg.

Eagly, A.H. (2007). Female leadership advantage and disadvantage: Resolving the contradictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 1-12.

Fenwick, T. (2008). Workplace learning: Emerging trends and new perspectives. New directions for adult and continuing education, 119, 17-26.

Greyvenstein, L.A. (2000). The untapped human resource? An overview of women in educational management in South Africa. South African Journal of Education, 20, 30-33

Jean-Marie, G., & Martinez, A. (2013). Race, gender, & leadership: Perspectives of female secondary leaders. Available at

Johnson, Z., & Mathur-Helm, B. (2011). Experiences with queen bees: A South African study exploring the reluctance of women executives to promote other women in the workplace. South African Journal of Business Management, 42(4), 47-55.

Kattula, H.S. (2011). Women and the high school principalship: Metropolitan Detroit principals’ and superintendents’ perceptions regarding barriers and facilitators for job attainment. Digital Commons: Wayne State University. oa_dissertations

Kitele, A. (2013). Challenges faced by female head teachers in the management of secondary school: A case of Kangundo District in Machakos County, Kenya. MEd. Kenyatta University. Machakos.

Kunin, M. (2008). Women leaders. The Globalist. Retrieved from /StoryId.aspx?StoryId=6981.

Lips, H. (2009). Women and leadership. Delicate balancing act. [Online exclusive]. Women’s Media. Retrieved from

Lumby, J., & Azaola, C. (2011). Women principals in small schools in South Africa. Australian Journal of Education, 55(1), 73-85.

Makgoka, K.P. (2016). The leadership experiences of female secondary school principals in Sekhukhune District, Limpopo (Doctoral dissertation, UNISA).

Martinez, M.A., Rivera, M., & Marquez, J. (2020). Learning from the Experiences and Development of Latina School Leaders. Educational Administration Quarterly. 56(3), 472-498.

Mbepera, J.G. (2015). An exploration of the influences of female underpresentation in senior leadership positions in community secondary schools (CSSs) in rural Tanzania (Doctoral dissertation, UCL Institute of Education).

McMillan, J.H., & Schumacher, S. (2010). Research in education: Evidence-based inquiry, My Education Lab Series. Pearson. London.

Msila, V. (2013). Obstacles and opportunities in women school leadership: A literature study. International Journal of Educational Sciences, 5(4), 463-470.

Ntaka, P.N. (2013). Management challenges experienced by women principals in three rural secondary schools in Ndwedwe circuit in the Ilembe district (Doctoral dissertation).

Oplatka, I., & Atias, M. (2007). Gendered views of managing discipline in school and classroom. Gender and Education, 19(1), 41-59.

Parsaloi, M.W. (2012). The lived experiences of female head teachers in rural primary school in Kenya. MED. University of South Africa.

Potokri, O.C. (2011). Academic performance of married women students in Nigerian higher education, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.

Potokri, O.C. (2015). Exposition of culture and the space of women: An African view for policy consideration. Gender and Behaviour, 13(2), 6694-6703.

Reed, B. N., Klutts, A. M., & Mattingly, T. J. (2019). A Systematic Review of Leadership Definitions, Competencies, and Assessment Methods in Pharmacy Education. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 83(9), 7520.

Republic of South Africa. (1996). The Constitution of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996. Pretoria

Robinson, K., Shakeshaft, C., Grogan, M., & Newcomb, W. S. (2017, April). Necessary but not sufficient: The continuing inequality between men and women in educational leadership, findings from the American Association of School Administrators mid-decade survey. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 2, p. 12). Frontiers.

Schmidt, M., & Mestry, R. (2015). The experiences of female principals in the Gauteng province.

Shung-King, M., Gilson, L., Mbachu, C., Molyneux, S., Muraya, K. W., Uguru, N., & Govender, V. (2018). Leadership experiences and practices of South African health managers: what is the influence of gender? -a qualitative, exploratory study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 17(1), 1-12.

Wrushen, B.R., & Sherman, W.H. (2008). Women secondary school principals: Multicultural voices from the field. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21(5), 457-469.

Yáñez, J., & Moreno, M. (2008). Women leaders as agents of change in higher education organizations. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 23(2), 86-102.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Editorial Office:

Educational Research Multimedia & Publications,
S.N. 21, Plot No 24, Mirza Ghalib Road Malegaon Nasik,
Maharashtra India - 423203.
+919764558895 (WhatsApp),,

Copyrights © 2010-2021 - ERM Publications, India     

This work is licensed under

click site richard mille replica a fantastic read rolex replica read the article копии часов read this article orologi replica.