SA Journal of Education, Vol 40, No 3 (2020)

Voices of resilience: Female school principals, leadership skills, and decision-making techniques

Nicolette de Bruyn, Raj Mestry


In this article we report on a qualitative study which explored the life narratives and career trajectories of female school principals, to determine resilience factors in the principalship position. The female principals’ voices and lived experiences were principle focus areas, not barriers or challenges they faced. In-depth insights were provided by narrative analysis as research methodology. Fifteen in-service female principals were selected from one school circuit in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. An interdisciplinary theoretical framework was used to guide the interpretation of the participants’ perspectives, using change theory, the ethics of care, and resilience psychology. Findings of the study reveal, among others, that female principals had to be prepared theoretically, practically, and psychologically for the principalship, and that mentoring and learning leadership skills were profoundly valued. These key factors lead to both career and life resilience, and can be imparted to prospective principals.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Nicolette de Bruyn -
Raj Mestry -

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