Exploring the dynamics of chronic conflict in four selected schools in the Durban Region.
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Using reflexive narrative and autoethnography, this study explores the nature and manifestation of ‘chronic conflict’ in school leadership. With autoethnography as a method in this study, the researcher employs a systematic self-reflective analysis in exploring her own life story within a sociocultural and historical context in which it occurred, alongside those of her colleagues. This approach challenges traditional ways of doing research and presents research as a socially conscious activity, the reflexive nature of which makes it both a process and product. In presenting the rationale for the study, it is argued that educational leaders should become reflective practitioners since they engage with educational reform and find ways to facilitate and sustain school improvement. The purpose of the study was to develop a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of conflict as experienced by school principals and educators during their interaction with staff and important stakeholders, like governing body members. The use of the term “chronic” in this thesis is a borrowing from a medical disease model where chronic conflict is regarded as an illness that develops slowly over time, producing symptoms that remain continuous or intermittent. The research confines itself to a series of in-depth narrations by selected participants of four schools, two secondary and two primary where the narrators of each of these institutions presents a vivid account of recurring conflicts at their specific schools. The case study approach used in this study responds to the key questions of this study, namely, what is the nature of chronic conflict at schools; how is chronic conflict manifested at schools, and why does chronic conflict manifest in the way it does at these schools? Complexity theory, one of the main theories to dominate the conflict theory landscape is used to underpin the observations and analysis of conflict in this study. This theory asserts that changes in any system are non-linear, unpredictable and the product of complex processes and multi-systems, which necessitates deep self-reflection, original strategy development and intervention for each conflict scenario. 6 The findings reflect that the manifestation of conflicts multiply in frequency and intensity which, over a prolonged period, “mastasizes” and forges an array of “intractable” consequences which contributes to the idea of chronicity.