A principal is the most important person in the school management. He/she is not just responsible for education, but also for personal development and growth of children and every matter relating to these kinds of issues. Schools are very different, not by the type of building or teaching personnel, but by spirit. It’s like every place where you walk in, you can feel that it is somehow different. The best ones are busy and loud, everyone looks pretty, happy and it is chaos but in a good way.
When a school seems well-functioning, you should know that behind it, there is a really good principal. Leader with a vision and goals. Someone who creates the atmosphere for teachers’ personal and professional development, the same with students, gives them space for personal growth, discoveries and freedom of speech and opinion.
It is a very difficult challenge to run a school efficiently. Skills that a principal should have are from different fields. He/she needs to know how to not just observe a situation but also be a leader in it, how to deal with development and performance at the same time, and that needs to be done with hundred unique personalities at the same time. Schools in Africa also have at least a hundred students per school. Principals need to know everything because they have a direct contact with the students’ parents. Bureaucracy and financial issues are also not to be forgotten in the big picture.
There are a bunch of reasons behind the disparities in management quality in schools in Africa. Principals should receive professional guidance too, not just the basic management courses, but also a psychological training, human resource training, and training in pedagogical and financial areas. They need to build an ecosystem in the schools that will help children develop. As an example, we can take a school in Nigeria, where a teacher needed to shout in class because a power generator was very loud, it was providing energy to an empty computer class. This is a mistake made by the management and that management is run by principal, highlighting poor skills in this area. No teacher or parent wants to take this kind of responsibility. It is the principal who is in charge of all the matters in the school ranging from energy to food provided to the children. These kinds of situations happen often, and it is no surprise because the main focus is to build a school, not to train the management and especially the higher management employees. Principals need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, and that they need to be learn themselves, before then they can bring more value to the school in general. Research was conducted in developed countries to link improved learning with greater autonomy, i.e. in Great Britain the public schools which are autonomous have better educational results than government operated schools. One of the reasons being the qualified principals.
There are already examples of schools in Africa where everything changed for the better, when a new, qualified principal was hired, but there are a lot more schools that requires improvement, and all of them deserves that, because all children deserve a better future.