AN EVALUATION OF THE OPINION OF TEACHERS ON CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES OF PRACTICALS
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 to 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 is
supported 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.