A Narrative Inquiry into Rural School Leadership in South Africa

Brigitte Smit


This article attends to rural school leadership in two South African schools through the lens of the concepts of relational leadership and emotional labour. The inquiry draws on five years of guided conversations and observations that speak to leadership experiences of hope and anticipation as well as despair and disillusionment. I worked with one black male principal and one black female school principal from two rural schools in South Africa. Over time, the tone of their narratives changed from hope to hopelessness and resignation. The findings spoke to how commitment and care were overcome by the educational challenges, which involved hunger and poverty, orphaned learners, teen pregnancy, rape, departmental criticism and lack of support. Theoretically, this inquiry draws on the theories of relational leadership and emotional labour in rural education and empirical evidence was drawn from narrative inquiry.


narrative inquiry, rural school leadership, relational leadership, emotional labour

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17583/qre.2017.2276

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Qualitative Research in Education | ISSN: 2014-6418

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