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The challenges of ethical leadership: a case study of secondary school leader's experiences in Kenya

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posted on 14.11.2021, 00:08 by Oduol, Truphena

Research has shown that school leaders today face more numerous ethical challenges than before, however little is known about the ethical challenges school leaders in Africa, and more specifically Kenya, encounter. This single case study investigated the nature of the ethical challenges that secondary school leaders face in conforming to the demands for ethical leadership and professionalism. It explores the perspectives of school leaders using semi-structured individual interviews: five school principals, 16 heads of department, five school boards of governors, and five school bursars, in five categories of secondary schools. The views and perspectives of nine parents on the leaders' ethical decision-making were also sought through interviews, because as stakeholders they are recipients of decisions made by the leaders. Drawing on a social constructivist theoretical framework and Eurocentric and Afrocentric paradigms for analysis and interpretation, the study revealed that the school leaders' ethical problems emanated from dealing with the realities of the context which creates conflicting demands for ethical conduct. A critical analysis of these themes using Foucauldian concepts of subjectification, power and governmentality illustrated that school leaders' ethical challenges were intensified because of their forced accommodation to Euro-western global policies. These policies, in particular the Structural Adjustment Programmes policy, the Education For All policy and the Good Governance Agenda are geared towards attaining the utopian dream of development. In view of this goal, the Kenyan state and school leaders are exposed to global interventions propagated on terms of discourses of improvement. The thesis argues that ethical challenges are intensified and persist because school leaders and the State have failed to critically reflect on these external influences, and allowed international global bodies to define the nation's needs, values and destiny. This study recommends that the State and education policy makers need to take a lead in developing their own value systems and policies, taking into account local Kenyan contextual needs and giving greater valence to Afrocentric values.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

930401 Management and Leadership of Schools/Institutions

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Policy and Implementation


Cornforth, Sue; Jones, Liz