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The Impact of the Malawi Secondary School Cluster System on the Management of Community Day Secondary Schools: Case of Blantyre District

The research was conducted in Blantyre district of Malawi in 2004 to investigate the impact of the Malawi Secondary School Cluster system on the management of Community Day Secondary Schools. As a background to the study, the paper discusses the Malawi educational structure, Secondary School mission statement, the Secondary School teaching force, the educational policies that led to the formation of the cluster system, and the objectives of the cluster system. The hypothesis was that the cluster system had resulted in visible and positive changes in the management practices of Community Day Secondary Schools. Prior to sampling, literature from some Asian and African countries was reviewed. In general, the literature revealed that school clusters are formed to redress any imbalance in the provision of education by encouraging the sharing of knowledge, skills, and resources among schools. In addition, they are formed to improve community participation in school affairs. The literature, among the many cluster challenges cited the lack of financial resources as a major challenge. The schools and participants were selected using random, purposive, and convenience sampling. The cluster were stratified into: active, semi-active, and passive clusters based on the number of cluster activities held between 2000 and 2003 and the number of school management related activities held. A total of eight CDSSs were sampled for data collection: two schools were sampled from each cluster category and two more schools were added to the active cluster CDSSs for a case study. There were ninety respondents and they comprised Headteachers, Heads of department, PTA members, and pupils. The data were collected through interviews, questionnaires, focus group discussions, and school documentation reviews. The data were comparatively analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The formulation of mission statements, the formulation and implementation of school development plans, availability of school records and their management, student welfare management, school organization, and communication were best in the active cluster CDSSs followed by semi-active cluster CDSSs and lastly passive cluster CDSSs. These results suggest that the secondary school cluster system had assisted in improving the management practices of CDSSs. The case study revealed that the cluster system was encouraging schools to share knowledge, skills, and teaching and learning resources. The number of cluster activities from 2001 was dwindling because of decreasing financial support. Some of the recommendations made are that the Ministry of Education should increase the material and financial support to cluster, Educational Divisions should be posting experienced, innovative and hard working headteachers to cluster leader schools, and that they should desist from frequent transfers of headteachers to cluster to enhance the realization of school mission statements and implementation of school development plans. Finally, it has been suggested that each cluster should have a cluster based cluster coordinator so that cluster activities are given more attention.
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