This study is aimed at investigating the various strategies adopted by principals of secondary schools in Imo State in handling conflicts. Four research questions and three hypothesis guided the conduct of the study. Questionnaire was used to collect relevant data from three educational zones out of the six educational zones of the state. 720 teachers were randomly selected. T-test statistics was employed to test each hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. The findings revealed that various levels of conflicts exist in secondary schools. They include, intra-personal, inter-personal, community related and inter-organizational conflicts. The most prevalent level of conflict are intra-personal, inter-personal and intra-unit/departmental.
The study revealed that the conflict management strategies that are regularly used by principals are dialogue, communication and disciplinary committee. While those that are rarely used are avoidance and third party. School location influences principals choice of management strategies. On the other hand, gender has no significant difference in principals choice of conflict management strategies. In view of this, it was among others recommended that to reduce conflicts in schools, the ministry of education and the secondary education Management Board could train school principals in the acquisition and proper adoption of conflict management strategies. The suggested training could take the form of conferences, seminars and workshops on the subject matter from time to time.
Background of the Study
The human society is full of events, on the course of these events among human beings, conflict occurs. In the well managed organization and economics of the world today, certainly conflict arises. The school is a formal, educational organization made up of different person with diverse interest, many of which conflict with the school or institutions set goals and objectives.Conflict is a common social phenomenon which occurs in human society of which the school is a part of. In a secondary school system, the principal is the head of the institution. Principal and other managers while performing their duties may find themselves stepping into the shoes of their subjects which lead to conflict. Kenan (2013) conflicts are normal in any organization, because people have different opinions, while some individuals cannot accept other peoples different opinion which leads to conflict.Onwurah & Oboegbulem (2011) sees conflict as common occurrences in life.
They are inevitable in all organizations, educational institutions inclusive. They involve human beings with varied interests, goal and aspirations. Conflict is therefore a social problem. Ughamadu (2008) defined conflict as a “disagreement over and issue, sometimes such disagreement may be, positive or negative whichever way. Whether in the family, Industrial, national or international setting, it is normal occurrence in human relations, because the society or mankind needs to disagree in order to agree”. Based on the fore going definitions, that conflict is a normal occurrence in human relations, it could breed positive or negative change and as such management of conflict comes in to playa role.Obi (2012) viewed conflict as and inevitable and inherent in all inter department relationships. Conflicts usually reflect the diversity and complexity of human societies, and are not necessarily a dysfunctional experience. It is an unavoidable social phenomenon which is an integral part of human existence. Over the decades ago, the ideas of conflict have been discussed in phases. However three fundamental theories have been digested and accepted for their analysis on the issue.
They represented as follow:-
1. The classical or traditional approach.
This approach viewed conflict as some thing bad, unacceptable, harmful, and destructive and as such should be immediately handled or eliminated. They regarded conflict as unhealthy to organizations and should be prevented by every means to ensure the existence of the organizations and achievement of its objectives. This involves struggling to achieve a goal at all cost. This can lead to destroying or using every means to suppress your colleague. The traditional approach believed that smooth operation of any organization must be characterized by unity, coordination and efficiency. They stressed that harmony; co-operation, obedience and hard work by workers are the virtues of organizational life. This thought about conflict dominated the management thinking in early 19th century to Late 1930 in the 20th century.
2. The behavioural approach appreciated that conflict is present in all human organization but must be resolved or eliminated mostly when it is dysfunctional. This group stated that presence of conflict in any organization is a sign of ineffectiveness and failure on the part of the management. They believe that the best approach to management of conflict is to resolve or eliminate it as soon as it is noticed. The behavioural approach replaced the traditional or classical approach in the 1940s.
3. The contemporary/functionalist approach, view conflict as inevitable and necessary and should be encouraged for organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Ademola (2000), stated that conflict has its roots in forces that are inherent in human nature: That human nature is selfish, individualistic and naturally conflictive: That states, will always pursue their national interest, define as power and that such interest will come into conflict with those of others, leading to inevitability of conflict. Obikeze (2012) opined that conflict is one thing that is natural to human existence and form part of the daily life of human beings. It is in man, it was born with man and grows and live with it.This approach sees conflict as an unavoidable phenomenon. It is a natural phenomenon that is known to human societies allover the World, which can neither be eliminated nor suppressed, Onuselogu (2012).
Thus, the management of conflict includes its stimulation where its absence or suppression may hamper the organizations effectiveness, creativity or innovation. This group believes that conflict could be advantageous and disadvantageous and as such, the best way to handle conflict is not to eliminate it rather to manage and reap its advantages and reduce its negative effect.However, the above discussion by the functionalists brings in the idea of management of conflict in organizations using management strategies. The school is part of such organization, it is the duty of the school principal to adequately manage conflict in schools when they arise using various management styles to handle them.The educational sector of today in Nigeria and in Imo State in particular, is witnessing a lot of complexities since the introduction of free education programmes by Governor Anayo Rochas Ethelbert Okorocha in 2011.
Such complexities include: population explosion of students in secondary schools, shortage of teachers, assessment of students through test and examinations, indiscipline, over aged students, inadequate facilities, such as classroom block, seats, chalk boards, poor funding, lack of promotion etc. The above observation issupported by Omoebe (2002), when he stated there are conflict potentials in schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities and these conflict occur in management situation as lack of incentives, (conflict between employees and management). While conflicts between school authority and students are in the increase. In Imo States, the increase is since the past four years. Outside these numerous problems mentioned above, school as an educational organization is still expected to achieve stated goals.
However, the principal, other school managers, staff and students, and the entire community, both intra and inter, should cooperate in other to carry out their noble function so as to attain a high level qualitative education. In the school system, principal’s, teachers and other non teaching staff including the students cannot work differently. The duties or functions of all mentioned above are related to each other and such conflict cannot be eliminated among them. Chukwu (2006) states that since conflict is an inevitable occurrence in school organization, principals, school administrators and managers should train their mind on how to handle it and be able to manage conflicts by understanding the immediate and remote causes of such conflict.The point is that principals of schools should be well informed, qualified and experienced, and should be aware of sources of conflict and its existence in the school and look for a source of resolving such conflicts. Unresolved conflict would lead to disruption of the system.
Constant disharmony, disrespect of the principals and teachers by students, as well that of teachers to the principal’s poor working relationship. These situation, affects teaching, learning and moral tone of the school.Based on the foregoing, management strategies comes into play role(s) the use of techniques and skill should be applied by school management to handle conflicting ideas and opinions in order to restore normalcy among staff and move the school forward, so as to achieve the target goals of the institution.This study therefore targets at finding out strategies that can be used by principals of schools and other managers in handing conflicts between them and the teachers, other staff of the school and students in such a way that conflicting issues will not mar or hinder achievement of goals of Nigeria education and of Imo State in particular.
Statement of the Problem
School is one of the important institutions in the human society. Teaching and learning is as old as civilization. Educational institutions such as school are one of the organizations that is made up of informed group.This group of persons perform their duties variously to achieve stated or defined goals. Conflict therefore, is inevitable in such a system. The school is made up of tutorial staff (teaching) and non tutorial (non teaching) staff, students, even the host community is involved In conflict with the school. The unconducive atmosphere of the environment arising from conflict among the members of staff and the community affects the realization of the philosophical goals of the institution if not well managed.
There is a wide spread allegation in our national dailies and periodicals on the issue of poor standard of education in our school system, case of students involvement in vices such as lateness to school, truancy, disobedient to principals and teachers, prostitution, cultism, refusal to do assignments, loitering about during school hours, fighting among students etc. More so, various accusations and complaints have also been made about principals and teachers and their attitude to work, such areas of complaints include:- lateness to school, poor control of students, absenteeism, involvement in examination malpractice, leaving school before closing time, poor attendance to class and engaging into one business or the other during school hours. Reports have also been made about open quarrels between principals and their teachers, among teachers, students and teachers.In this past few years in Imo State, report of serious quarrel arose between principals in some school as a result of division of schools into two sections of junior and senior secondary, each having a principals arising from the new USE policy of 9.3.4 system of education introduced by the federal government in 2004.
In the schools, the quarrels were on sharing of teachers teaching in the school, teaching and learning materials and the physical structures. Attempts were made by some principals to divide the school into with walls and having separate entrances. The situation made the teaching and learning environment unconducive and as such marred the achievement of goals in such schools. The process of dealing with the above mentioned problems that arises from the school, so as to reduce them from escalating beyond management, school principals therefore adopt various conflict management strategies.However, the questions are: to what extent does conflict exist in secondary schools in Imo State. To resolve any level of conflict, what strategies are employed by the school managers.How do locating and gender affects conflict management strategies of principal in Imo State.
Purpose of the Study
This study targets to find out various strategies adopted by principals of secondary schools as perceived by teachers in Imo State in the management of conflict in their schools. The specific areas which this study is to embark upon is to:-
1. Identify levels of conflict that arises in secondary schools in Imo State.
2. Find out the common management strategies which principals of secondary schools apply in resolving conflicts in their schools
3. Determine the influence of school location on principal’s leadership style in managing conflict.
4. Find out how gender can affect principals management strategy.
Scope of the Study
The scope of this research is limited to secondary schools in Imo State, the eastern heart land of Nigeria. For effective management of schools by secondary education management board in Imo State, the state is divided into six (6) educational management zones namely: Owerri zone 1, Owerri zone 11, Orlu zone 1, Orlu zone 11, Okigwe zone 1, and Okigwe zone 11. The target of this study is to find out the management strategies applied by principals of secondary schools in resolving conflicts that arises on the course of managing their institutions.
Significance of the Study
The principals of schools in their day to day management of the schools encounter numerous problems arising from conflict which if not resolved would endanger achievement of set goals. This study, however, would be of immense benefit to:-
– Heads of secondary schools in updating their knowledge on factors causing conflict and also enable them deal with them when they occur, so as to ensure a conducive teaching and learning environment. They should ensure adequate motivation of staff; use democratic leadership styles, inter group relationship and good channel of communication.
– Principals of schools will appreciate that the knowledge of immediate and remote causes of conflicts in schools and will make them adopt appropriate management strategies in handling them.
– Teachers who are potential school heads will find this work good
– For them in future. They will also use the knowledge from this work in resolving conflict among students without necessarily involving school head. Using the management strategies identified here after studying the cause of the conflict would reduce conflict among students.
– Officials of ministry of educations, secondary education management board, proprietors of private schools. They would identify management flaws and effect necessary corrective measures in future.- The general public, such as church leader’s managers and captains of industries including our political leaders who encounter conflict in their day to day activities of their organizations. They should appreciate conflicts as part of their organization and ensuring they are dealt with whenever they arise using the management strategies that are put in place here.
To guide this study, the following research questions were formulated:
1. What levels of conflict exist in secondary schools in Imo State?
2. What are the common conflict management styles used by secondary school principals in Imo State?
3. To what extent do school location influence principal’s conflict management strategies in Imo State?
4. Would there be some differences in conflict management strategies of male and female principals of secondary schools in Imo State?
For the purpose of this research, the following hypothesis were formulated:
1. There is no significant difference between the levels of conflict found in the Imo State secondary schools.
2. There is no significant difference in the types of conflict management strategies found among secondary schools in urban and rural areas in Imo State.
3. There is no significant difference between the rating of conflict management strategies of male and female principals in Imo State.