Exploring ethical leadership practices in challenging township school contexts: a multiple case study.
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This qualitative and interpretivist study sought to explore the conceptualisation and enactment of ethical leadership by school principals and teachers in challenging township school contexts. A multiple case study was conducted with six school principals and twelve post level 1 educators in the Pinetown District, KwaZulu-Natal. The study was underpinned by these frameworks: Shapiro and Stefkovich’s (2005) Multiple Ethical Paradigm and Khoza’s (2011) Attuned Leadership: African Humanism. Purposive sampling was used to identify the research participants, while semi-structured interviews were employed to generate data which was analysed thematically. The findings show that school principals and post level 1 educators had a profound understanding of ethics (propriety, compassion, care, empathy, honest and trustworthiness, role modelling; collaboration and teamwork); however, these were not properly practised in the schools. The participants understood the need to nurture and foster an ethical environment, yet this seemed elusive or difficult to implement. A code of ethics and better communication were suggested as necessary for the creation of trust and elimination of conflicts in the workplace. The findings further show that some unethical practices were caused partly by the pressure to achieve set departmental academic results and standards, greed in schools, and poor monitoring at all levels in the system. Further, the lack of secure and reliable platforms to report unethical practices was raised as a serious hindrance to ethical leadership in schools. While the study findings acknowledge the overwhelming impact of contextual factors on ethical leadership practices in the researched schools, successful, visionary and ethical school leaders should nonetheless have the courage to stand for what is right, be able to adapt, reflect, transform and influence the context to promote school success, they should not be constrained by it. Hence, despite the challenging nature of the township school contexts and the tumultuous, corrupt environment the research participants face they should maintain unimpeachable honesty and integrity if their schools are not only to survive the challenging times but to remain vibrant and flourishing centres of academic excellence.