Original Research

The motivational roles of heads of department in learners’ performance and quality of schooling in South Africa

Keshni Bipath, Mfulathelwa M.B. Nkabinde
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 8, No 1 | a460 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v8i1.460 | © 2018 Keshni Bipath, Melanie Moen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 May 2016 | Published: 13 November 2018

About the author(s)

Keshni Bipath, Department of Early Childhood Education, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Mfulathelwa M.B. Nkabinde, Department of Basic Education, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The Global Competitiveness report shows that the quality of primary education in South Africa ranks 132 out of 144 countries. Statistics released by the Department of Basic Education in South Africa reveal that the average mark for Grade 3 learners in the Annual National Assessment (ANA) was 35% for literacy and 28% for numeracy.

Aim: We seek in this article to share the voices of the Foundation Phase heads of departments (HoDs) regarding their motivational roles and responsibilities in learner performance. We also aim to understand their role in tandem with other contributors, as well as all stakeholders in the Department of Basic Education who are responsible for teacher development and curriculum delivery.

Setting: Ehlanzeni, Bohlabela, Gert Sibande and Nkangala in Mpumalanga.

Methods: A quantitative research approach was used, where questionnaires were distributed to 274 Foundation Phase HoDs in all four districts in Mpumalanga.

Results: The findings indicate that HoDs have a moderate perception of their responsibility in motivating learners; moreover, they do not recognise the role of parents as motivators of learners. They seem too busy teaching in their classrooms and lack the time and skill of supervising their subordinates and involving parents in the education tripod. The legislative framework (PAM document), it can be argued, does not allow sufficient time for HoDs to efficiently perform their tasks.

Conclusion: Retraining of HoDs to work collaboratively with teachers and parents will enhance the quality of schooling offered in South Africa.


Educator; Foundation phase; HoD; motivation; Parent; South Africa


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