Leadership at the primary school level in post-conflict Rwanda: a study of the historical background, recent developments, and current concerns of school leaders

Gilbert Karareba

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Based on the premise that leadership can only be understood within the context in which it is exercised, the study reported in this thesis aimed to develop an understanding of leadership at the primary school level in post-conflict, post-colonial and developing country contexts of Rwanda. It examined the historical background to, and recent developments in relation to, primary school leadership in Rwanda. It also investigated the current concerns faced by primary school leaders and the strategies adopted by them in order to deal with those concerns. Review of the school leadership literature indicated that this literature has been dominated by perspectives generated from Western and conflict-free environments. This being so, there has been a dearth of research and associated literature relating to leadership at the individual school level in post-conflict societies. Similarly, only limited research exists on school level leadership in developing countries. The study reported in this thesis has the potential to address these deficits.

The study was guided by the theoretical underpinnings of interpretivism. It employed qualitative methods of data collection including semi-structured interviews, document analysis and unstructured non-participant observations. Maximum variation sampling and purposive sampling were used for the selection of schools and interview participants. The latter comprised principals, deputy principals and those parents who chaired School General Assembly Committees. Data were analysed using grounded theory methods of data analysis, specifically the use of constant comparison through open coding. The ‘open-coded’ data were then analysed using the ‘analytic induction’ technique.

The outcomes of the study suggest that from 1894 until the genocide of 1994, the churches played a significant role in administering and managing primary schools. Owing to the nationalisation of schools, this role was challenged by the First Republic regime from 1962 until 1973. The study’s outcomes also indicate that primary school leadership did not witness any developments during the emergency reconstruction era (i.e. from 1994 until 1999). Nevertheless, important developments in relation to primary school leadership occurred during the reconstruction development phase (i.e. from 2000 until 2014).

The study’s results pertaining to the current concerns faced by primary school leaders suggest that these leaders encounter problems relating to conflict prevention, teachers’ and school leaders’ professionalism, financial/resourcing constraints, student attrition, and parental disengagement. In addition, the present study has revealed a range of strategies that are pursued by school leaders while dealing with these concerns. Some of the challenges identified can be directly attributed to the legacies of war and genocide which occurred in Rwanda in the early 1990s. However, other concerns are better understood against the context of poverty and a poor domestic economy characterising low income and developing countries, including Rwanda.

These results and the associated key assertions presented in the final chapter are pertinent to the literature and future research on educational leadership. They also have implications for policy and practice. On this, the study’s results are likely to be useful for educational leadership researchers, school leaders, education policy makers, and those in charge of preparing, developing, and implementing professional development programmes for school leaders and teachers in Rwanda, as well as in other post-conflict and developing countries.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
  • Clarke, Simon, Supervisor
  • O'Donoghue, Thomas, Supervisor
Award date9 Jun 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


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