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This study investigated the challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools in the South west Region of Cameroon. The objectives of the study were to investigate the problems they face in managing teachers and teaching, finances, support staff, student discipline and relationships with members of the community and to make proposals to address the problems. Data were collected from 6 newly appointed and 4 old principals through the use of a semi structured questionnaire and analysed using descriptive statistics and thematically. The results of the data analysis revealed many challenges, the most frequently mentioned in supervising teachers and teaching being: late coming, absenteeism, late submission of progress report, poor collaboration, laziness, low syllabus coverage, resistance to change, negative attitudes by some teachers, time constraint and insolence from elderly teachers. The most frequently financial management challenges were inadequate finance, non-payment of tuition fees and limited finances. The most frequently mentioned challenges with students were absenteeism, late coming, disruptive behaviour, lack of study materials, insubordination, stealing, drug abuse, and bullying. They also reported challenges in managing relationships with members of the community such as: inadequate cooperation, unfriendly attitudes, ignorance, and illiteracy. With support staff they face challenges such as, lack of commitment, lack of qualified support staff, late coming, and absenteeism. Proposals to address the problems faced by newly appointed principals included: organising in-service training for principals, sanctioning of staff that are not serious, more discipline masters, cooperation between school and society, yearly monitoring of financial records, need for more support staff, employment of more teachers. It suggested that, this same study should be conducted in other regions of Cameroon so that all the difficulties encountered by new principals in managing their schools can be clearly captured and hopefully addressed.

In addition, similar studies can be done with other principals (not only new ones) in public and private secondary schools in the country.




According to Mbua (2003), principals in Cameroon are appointed from a pool of graduate teachers with teaching qualifications and experiences but without specialized preparation as educational administrators. The Report of the National Education Forum in Cameroon (1995) points out that, one of the problems of education in Cameroon is inadequately trained personnel in the Cameroon Educational system and regular monitoring of schools. The task of maintaining an effective machinery of a functional school system in Cameroon in general and in the southwest region in particular is one that demands a great deal of attention on the part of principals. The need for dedicated principals who are effective in encouraging staff productivity cannot be over- emphasized. To Tambo (2003) appointments to administrative positions are fairly chaotic, unfair, tribalistic, and incoherent.

Research in the 1960s, especially by Coleman (1966) argued that factors within the school did not significantly contribute to school effectiveness. Later research particularly in the 1970s till date has concluded that, factors within schools especially principals do make a significant difference in determining academic achievements and school effectiveness, (for example, Rutter, 1979; Edmonds, 1979). According to these effective schools researchers, principals are crucial to school effectiveness because of their potential to create and sustain enabling conditions for all stakeholders to work together as a team to make schools effective. As a consequence of effective schools research, a lot of attention has been paid and is still being paid to principals.

This study sets out to investigate the challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools in the South West Region of Cameroon.  Chapter one presents the background of the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, research objectives, research questions, and significance of the study, delimitations and operational definition of terms. Chapter two present the review of related literature while chapter three and four is devoted to the research methodology and findings respectively. In chapter five the findings are discussed and recommendations made.

Background of the Study

The importance of secondary education and principals is well documented in Cameroon. Law No. 98/004 of 14th April 1998 to provide an orientation for secondary education in its section 2 states that, education shall be a top priority of the nation. Part 111, chapter 1, and section 27, states that “the head of the educational establishment shall be responsible in maintaining order”. In its growth and employment strategy paper (2010-2020) or Vision 2035 it stated that, in order to improve youth’s employability, it is urgent to pay attention to the educational sector. This entails increasing the number of schools and administrators to manage them. For this to be done, the country needs well trained secondary school administrators to lead school improvement efforts.

  In 1997, on the occasion of the in-country workshop on the training of Head teachers, jointly sponsored by the Commonwealth and the Ministry of National Education, Dr. Robert Mbella in his opening speech stressed that, good school administration brings better discipline, better results, better management of scarce resources and better returns on the enormous investment that parents and the state put into the educational sector. (Titanji, 2017)

 Also, Cameroon is one of the countries in Africa that seriously lacks trained school administrators. Chapman and Mulken (2003), in their World Bank Report on secondary education in Africa, assert that principals in many parts of Africa have little or no formal preparation to effectively run schools. They conclude that a central challenge of the near future would be to strengthen the management capacity of principals to enable them run more effective secondary schools.

A critical challenge of secondary education is to respond to the twin challenges of increasing access to secondary schools and, improving the quality and relevance of programmes.  The head teacher or principal occupies a unique position in secondary education. He has an important role to play in school improvement. The ability of the head teacher or principal to improve the quality of education requires him/her to identify and address school management challenges especially in the area of human resources, material and financial resources as well as students and relations with the community.

 Furthermore, Atieno and Simatura (2012) observe that, most principals in Africa work in poorly equipped buildings with inadequately trained staff. In addition, there is scarcely any leadership training offered to principals who are appointed based on their teaching experiences rather than leadership experience. According to Mestry and Singh, (2007) school principals start as active teachers with a teaching experience which is required as qualification for school headship. In most African countries, school head teachers begin their careers as teachers. Similarly, Bush and Oduro (2006) note that in Africa, there is no formal requirement for school heads to be trained as school managers. Thus, their subsequent appointment as head teachers is based on successful record as teachers in classrooms.

With respect to Kenya, Vander Westhuizen (1997) observed that, good teaching abilities are not necessarily an indication that the person appointed will be a capable educational manager. According to Atieno and Simatura (2012) many serving principals lack basic management training prior to and after their entry into headship. Furthermore, research carried out by Earley P. et al; (2011) on the experiences of new head teachers has shown that they do not experience similar kinds of problems as their more experienced counterparts. Consequently, support strategies adopted are not necessarily equally applicable or effective for all old principals and new heads. The support provided to principals needs to be flexible and individualized considering their diversity.

 According to Harbison (1973), a country which is unable to develop the skills and knowledge of its people and to utilize them effectively in the national economy will be unable to develop anything else. Tambo (2003) states that the educational policy in Cameroon has emphasized the importance in forging  national unity and man power development for the economic, social and political development of the country.

 Also, one major document that outlines the way schools are to be managed by school administrators is the Handbook for Heads of Secondary and High schools (MINEDUC, 1996). This handbook was conceived and compiled by the then ministry of National Education under the leadership of Dr. Robert Mbella Mbarpe to help both new and old principals. The handbook identifies four main functions for secondary school principals: pedagogic, administrative, social and financial. In the process of performing them, principals especially new ones will face challenges. The challenges cannot be assumed, but must be the subject of research.

Schools exist to help students learn and one of the ways to ensure this is to help those who work with students at various levels to become better practitioners, to be the best they can be, more knowledgeable, more sensitive to the needs of different learners, more thoughtful, more resourceful, more flexible, more creative, and more intelligent human beings. For these qualities to be achieved, well trained school administrators are needed. Training is effective only if it has a demonstrable payoff and is transferred to the job. According to Newstrom and Bittel (2002), cited in Titanji (2017) training puts one in a favourable light, wins the confidence and cooperation of other workers in attaining organizational goals. Cameroon has good policies but the reality on ground is different. It is stated that principals will receive training but the truth is that the moment they are appointed no such training is given to them and as such the task of managing the school becomes an uphill task.

Statement of the Problem

One of the major challenges of the educational sector is to improve institutional governance in order to improve low quality of instruction, indiscipline among staff and students, poor performance of students, poor management of finances and address other problems. Most secondary school principals are not trained as school administrators, being appointed from a pool of graduate teachers with teaching qualifications and experiences but without specialized preparation as educational administrators. Consequently, principals especially new ones are likely to face many challenges. The problem is that, these challenges have not received adequate research attention. This constitutes a problem because of the importance of principals to school improvement efforts. The challenges can be addressed if known. With regard to the aforementioned situation, this study seeks to investigate the challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools in the south West Region of Cameroon.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate the challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools in the South West Region. In addition, it seeks to investigate proposals to address problems faced by new principals. This is done from the perspective of new and old principals

General objective

To empirically investigate challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools and proposals to address them.

Specific Objectives

The following specific objectives shall guide the study:

  1. To investigate the challenges newly appointed principals face in the process of managing finances

  2. To investigate the challenges newly appointed principals face in managing teachers and supervising teaching

  3. To investigate the challenges they face in the management of students.

  4. To investigate the challenges they face managing relationship with members of the community.

  5. To investigate the challenges faced with support staff.

  6. To investigate proposals to address the challenges

General Research Question

What are the challenges faced by newly appointed principals in the management of public secondary schools and the proposals to address them?

Specific research questions

The study seeks to answer the following research questions:

  • What are the challenges newly appointed principals face in the process of managing finances?
  • What are the challenges they face in the management of teachers and supervising teaching?
  • What are the challenges they face in managing students?
  • What are the challenges they face in managing relationship with members of the community?
  • What are the challenges they face in the process of managing support staff?
  • What according to principals can be done to address these challenges?


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