26 SES 11 B, Leadership in Post Conflicts and Disadvantaged Contexts
A recent Oxfam report captured the attention of many educators and researchers when it proclaimed that the richest 85 people in the world possessed more wealth than half of the world’s population. In fact, over three billion people—almost half of the world’s population—live on less than $2.50 a day. Children comprise 2.2 billion of the world’s population and one billion—almost half of them——live in poverty. Indeed, according to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty (Shah, 2013). And, although over 120 million of the world’s children never have the opportunity to attend school at all, many others who struggle to attend school on a regular basis find it difficult to achieve academic success, despite the United Nations mandate for free, universal, elementary education. Indeed, almost a billion people worldwide, most of them poor, were unable to read a book or sign their name at the beginning of the 21st century (Shah, 2013).
The issue of child poverty is therefore, of pressing interest internationally, and of critical importance to school leaders everywhere who must grapple with the question of how best to educate all children, and perhaps especially those from poverty. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to examine how transformative leadership (Blackmore, 2011; Shields, 2012; Starratt, 2011) can assist educators to transform schools to better support the learning of impoverished students.
Transformative leadership (as opposed to either transactional or transformational leadership) takes seriously Freire’s (1998) contention “that education is not the ultimate lever for social transformation, but without it transformation cannot occur” (p. 37). Transformative leadership begins with questions of justice and democracy; it critiques inequitable practices and offers the promise not only of greater individual achievement but of a better life lived in common with others. Transformative leadership, therefore, inextricably links education and educational leadership with the wider social context within which it is embedded.
Scholars have identified and written about numerous indicators of multi-dimensional poverty, most of them associated with lack of resources, unemployment, and lack of education. Many of these studies have focused on the nature and extent of poverty in developing countries (Amadio, 2009; Battiston, Cruces, Lopez-Calva, Lugo, Santos, 2013; Gamboa, Waltenberg, 2012). Although lack of education or low levels of education on the part of a head of household are often identified as indicators of poverty, or associated with the persistence of poverty, few researchers focus on how to educate children living in impoverished situations, believing instead that poverty is robust and enduring and needs to be addressed through expensive, long-term interventions and social change. Thus, when children who live in poverty are able to attend school, they are confronted by many barriers: unprepared teachers, misplaced assumptions about children’s ability to learn, inequitable opportunities for access or attainment, unacceptable schooling conditions, and so forth. Moreover, these inequities are indiscriminate: they occur in developed and developing countries, in rural and urban schools, regardless of the dominant religious, political, or cultural norms of a country. Although there is no doubt that policy changes–additional income and employment opportunities, access to sanitary living conditions and clean water, and many other improvements, are desperately needed, research has demonstrated (see Hoffman & Burrello, 2004; Kose, 2007; McLaughlin, 1989; Marshall & Olivia, 2005; Shields & Warke, 2010) that there is much educators can do to ensure that all children receive a high quality education.
This paper will therefore combine what we know about children living in poverty with a framework based on transformative leadership theory to examine how educational leaders may address the learning needs of children who come from both generational and situational poverty (Jensen, 2009).
Amadio, M., (2009), Inclusive education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Exploratory analysis of the national reports presented at the 2008 International Conference on Education; Springer Prospects, 39, 293–305. Battiston, D., Cruces, G., Lopez-Calva, L. F., Lugo, M. A., Santos, M. E., (2013), Income and Beyond: Multidimensional Poverty in Six Latin American Countries, In Springer Soc Indic Res, 112, 291–314. Blackmore, J. (2011), Leadership in pursuit of purpose: Social, economic, and political transformation, In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative leadership: A reader, New York: Peter Lang, p. 21-36. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield. Gamboa, L. F., Waltenberg, F. D., (2012), Inequality of opportunity for educational achievement in Latin America: Evidence from PISA 2006–2009, Economics of Education Review 31, 694–708. Hoffman, L. P. & Burrello, L. C. (2004), A case study illustration of how a critical theorist and a consummate practitioner meet on common ground, Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(2), 268-289. Jensen 2009, Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids' brains and what schools can do about it, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Kose, B. W. (2007). Principal leadership for social justice: Uncovering the content of teacher professional development. Journal of School Leadership, 17, 276-312. Marshall, C., & Olivia, M., (2005), Leadership for social justice, Making revolutions in education, Old Tappan, NJ: Allyn & Bacon. McLaughlin, D. (1989), Power and the politics of knowledge: Transformative leadership and curriculum development for minority language learners, Peabody Journal of Education, 66(3), 41-60. Shah, A. (2013), Poverty facts and stats, in Global Issues, retrieved October, 2014 at http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats Shields, C. M., & Warke, A. (2010), The invisible crisis: Connecting schools with homeless families, Journal of School Leadership. Shields, C. M., (2012), Transformative leadership in education: Equitable change in an uncertain and complex world, New York: Routledge. Shields, C. M., (2013), Educating children who come from impoverished or disadvantaged circumstances, modules prepared for the Instituto de Altos Estudios Universitarios, Barcelona. Starratt, J. R., (2011), Preparing transformative educators for the work of leading schools in a multicultural, diverse, and democratic society. In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative leadership: A reader, New York: Peter Lang, p. 131-136.
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