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Background of the Study

In Nigeria, principals are the heads of secondary schools, charged with the responsibility of running the day-to-day affairs of the schools.  Accordingly, they are responsible for all that happens in the schools.  Various writers have expressed their opinions on whom the principal is, via-a-vis his various roles and competencies.

Ogbonnaya (2004), Alpha (2005) and Odibo (2001) in their different opinions described the principal as the accounting officer of the school, the chief executive and instructional leader. As an accounting officer, the principal oversees the day-to day management of the school. Stressing further, Ogbonnaya (2004) stated that the most important function of the secondary school principal is his instructional leadership role in the school. According to the author, this role is exercised as the principal plans, organizes and promotes instructions. He however further noted that the secondary school principal has another function of ensuring that fund is procured and judiciously used on various school programmes.

Mgbodile (2004) added that principals are responsible for implementing educational programmes in schools, ensuring that conducive atmosphere is created for learning. According to the writer, the principals   are the hub on which the success of secondary education revolves, because they help to translate policies on education into action.

In view of the above, it can be deduced that the principal’s key function is to promote education through effective administration of teaching and learning programmes. It is therefore expected that a principal must be competent enough in his administrative duties. Eboka (2008) and Baudinette (2008) noted that successful administration of secondary schools require competent principals with appropriate administrative competencies. The question at this juncture is: What are these administrative competencies?

According to Drea and O’Brien (2002), administrative competencies of principals refer to the knowledge, skills and abilities which the principals require to do their jobs effectively. They further stressed that administrative competencies also involve those range of personal characteristics (for example, personal values, motives and ideas) which administrators bring to bear upon their jobs. It is their opinion that these personal characteristics complement the professional competencies the principal requires for effective school administration. In a related view Getha-Taylor (2008), refers to administrative competencies as those abilities which school administrators require in order to perform their jobs in a professional  manner. The emphasis is on the ability of administrators to achieve practical results. Given the above, and for the purposes of this study, administrative competencies refer to those personal and professional abilities a principal requires in planning and implementing educational programmes in schools.

Findley and Findley (1992), made an early attempt to identify some administrative competencies.  Accordingly, the authors identified the critical importance of instructional leadership competence in school administration, emphasizing that with this competence, the principal is able to influence the quality of individual teacher’s instruction level of students’ learning achievement and degree of efficiency in the school.  Agu (2003) in a related attempt, limited administrative competencies to communication, human development and technical competencies, while Mgbodile (2004), restricted them to: staff-personnel administration, pupil-personnel administration, school plant and financial administration competencies.  Arikewuyo (2007), on the other hand, reported the dearth of empirical studies on principals’ administrative competencies, but noted that some competencies, as highlighted above, have been identified to be relevant to the effective administration of schools by principals.

However, for the purposes of this study, attention was focused on the following five administrative competencies–instructional leadership competency, personnel management competency, financial management competency   physical facilities and equipment management competency and information communication and technology competency. The choice was informed by literature evidence which revealed that principals have problems with these administrative competencies, especially in the study area.

Research studies have identified instructional leadership as an important factor in considering administrative competencies. Instructional leadership competencies, according to Flath (2002), refer to those actions that a principal takes or delegates to others to promote growth in students’ learning. In practice this means the principal’s ability to encourage educational achievement by making instruction the top priority in school programmes. Both Flath (2002) and Mgbodile (2004) agree that if a school is to be an effective one, in terms of students’ learning achievement, then it will be because of the instructional leadership competence of the principal.  Anderson and Pigford (2007) identified some major instructional leadership competencies to include: ability to identify and translate instructional goals to action, create conducive learning environment, evaluate what teachers and students are doing and intervene when necessary. Stronge (1998), on the other hand, emphasized supervision as a major competency of instructional leadership. To this study, instructional leadership competency was accepted as the principal’s ability to promote instruction and students’ achievement through the above –identified skills.

Ironically, Stronge (1998) noted that although the role of the principal as an instructional leader is widely recognized, it is hardly practiced. According to the author the consensus in the literature is that principals spend more of their time on managerial issues because of ignorance of the competencies required for instructional leadership. This probably motivated the work of Ezike (2005) which also revealed that principals in Nsukka Education Zone of Enugu State lack intellectual abilities for carrying out their instructional leadership roles. Arua (2004) made a similar revelation with respect to principals in Ebonyi State. Okeke (2004) in his appraisal of administrative competencies of secondary school principals in Anambra and Enugu had equally concluded that the principals lack these instructional management competencies. This lack of instructional leadership competencies has led to some unfortunate crises in the educational system.

Today, there is a public outcry on the poor performance of candidates in examinations. Okereke and Ugwu (2011) noted that the effect of inadequate instructional leadership is manifested in the rising poor performance in examinations (JAMB, WASSE, NECO, Post-UME etc), evident from the reports of examination bodies, parents, teachers and other education stakeholders. The 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), for example, recorded the most terrible result since the inception of matriculation examinations in Nigeria. Out of the 1,493,604 candidates who sat for the examination, 842,651 or 56.4% percent, scored below 200 (JAMB, 2011). Adeniran (2011) partly blamed this poor performance on principals who pay lip service to the quality of instruction in schools. A similar observation was made with respect to the May/ June 2010 West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), where only 31% of the 1,540,250 candidates who sat for the  examination, obtained five credits and above, including English language and Mathematics (Uwadiae,2011). Although this represented an improvement over the 2010 performance of 23%, Uwadiae noted that it still shows that all is not well with instructional leadership in our secondary schools.

Although the above cases are not peculiar to South-East states, the candidates from this zone, who often constitute the bulk of JAMB and WASSCE           candidates, cannot be exempted from this low performance situation. And since the principals are the chief accounting officers, they too cannot claim immunity over such poor academic performance. It was therefore apparent that principals require adequate instructional leadership competencies in order to cope with the level of academic decay in schools. This was where this study sought to make a contribution.

Another identified administrative competency for study related to personnel administration which Nnabuo (1996), sees as the life-wire of an educational institution. Thomson (2007) defined personnel administration as the management of human resources in relation to attracting staff, assigning duties to them and maintaining good labour relations with them. In what appears to be an overall view of personnel administration, Oboegbulem (2004) summarized it to embrace determining and satisfying personnel needs as well as improving staff services.

To this study, personnel administration was defined to mean the putting of human resources into effective use for the achievement of school objectives. The implication is that principals require competencies in order to achieve good personnel administration. Personnel administration competencies were therefore defined in terms of principals’ abilities to manage all staff affairs in terms of determining their needs, delegating duties, resolving conflicts maintaining effective communication, encouraging staff development and motivating them in various ways. Despite the important position of principals in personnel administration in schools, concerns have been expressed by individuals, researchers, parents and even governments over principals’ poor staff management practices vis-a vis teachers’ unrests, poor job performances, immoral attitudes, and principal’s inability to motivate staff or encourage staff development.

Chukwu (2005), in a study on appraisal of administrative competencies of principals in Ebonyi State, revealed that principals’ inability to motivate their staff, affected the teachers’ attitude to work. Isa (2007), made a similar observation about the principals in FCT, Abuja and Chukwu (2003), about the head teachers in Enugu State. In 2007, the Federal Ministry of Education wanted to close down and privatize all Unity Schools (including those in the South-East), because of principals’ inefficient administration, resulting in declining staff performances and lowered academic standards (FME, 2009; Jekeyinfa and Ijaiya, 2009). Jekeyinfa and Ijaiya further noted that even while some parents had to withdraw their children from the schools, others resorted to court actions because of the general decay in school administration. In a study on teachers’ perception of principals’ performance on staff development in Imo State, Eze (2004) found that there was no significant difference in the perception of teachers on principals’ poor staff development practices, implying that the principals lacked the administrative competence in staff development. Nakpodia (2010) made a similar finding in Delta State.

The above situations border on incompetent administration by the principals. The implication is that they require administrative competencies, particularly in the area of personnel administration.  This was again where this study sought to make a contribution because it identified the competencies the principals actually require in this area of school administration.

This study further considered another critical administrative competency required by principals. This is financial management competency. Financial management, according to Ogbonnaya (2000), is defined  as the acquisition and management of financial resources in order to achieve specified organizational goals. According to the author, it is concerned with decisions on how to plan and secure funds as well as expend and account for the secured funds in the implementation of organizational programmes. Within the educational context, Mgbodile (1998) referred to it  as that phase of school administration concerned with budgeting, procuring, expending, monitoring, organizing, accounting and maintaining financial resources in an effective manner in the achievement of educational goals. Given the comprehensive nature of this definition, this study adopted Mgbodile’s (1998) position in understanding the meaning of financial management Within this context, financial  management competency was accepted as  the principal’s ability to undertake the various activities involved in financial management as outlined above. As financial manager, the principal has to ensure that financial resources  are prudently utilized in order to sustain school programmes. But there are indications that many principals have problems with financial management, especially in the South-East states.

In a study conducted on constraints to financial management in secondary schools in Afikpo Education Zone of Ebonyi State, Anyim (2000) reported that principals lacked the knowledge and training in financial management, and consequently recommended that they should be exposed to skills in  financial management . In a related study, Oboegbulem (2007) investigated the management of school funds by secondary school principals in  Imo state. The researcher discovered, among other things, that the principals were unable to give accurate account of money, diverted school funds to private uses, made improper budgets and spent money without approvals. Aruma (2000), had earlier made similar findings in respect of principals in Enugu state, while Odoma (2004) even made similar conclusions on Kogi state principals. In fact, of recent, five principals had to be suspended in Ebonyi State for misusing the NECO money they collected from students (Ebonyi Voice, 2010).

The above cases pointed to one thing: that principals in South-East lack financial management competencies in school administration and therefore needed assistance in this direction. The numerous problems in our educational system in the area, in form of abandonment of school projects and  decaying infrastructure (Oboegbulem, 2007), imposing unauthorized  levies on students and embezzlement of school funds (Ogbonnaya,2000), collusion with contractors  to inflate school project costs and non-adherence to budgetary provisions (Nwachukwu, 2004) and inadequate provision of instructional materials due to shortage of funds (Aruma, 2004), could be attributed to this incompetency. This study identified this gap and therefore investigated the financial management competencies required by the principals in the South-East.

Apart from the financial management competencies discussed above, this study also identified physical facilities and equipment management competencies as important factors to be considered in school administration. Mgbodile (2004) who also described physical facilities and equipment as school plant, referred to it as the space interpretation of the school curriculum, incorporating the site, buildings, play grounds, classrooms, laboratories and the various facilities and equipment found in them. Hallak (1990) emphasized that the availability, relevance, adequacy, usage and maintenance of these facilities contribute to academic achievement. And according to Kolawole and Arikpo (2001), principals’ administrative competence can be assessed through the management of school plant.

Within the above context, physical facilities and equipment competencies, according to Mgbodile (2004) refer to the knowledge and abilities which principals require in order to procure and maintain the various facilities and equipment for facilitating teaching and learning. However, in addition to the above this study incorporated planning, allocating, monitoring, maintaining and securing school facilities and equipment as important competencies the principals also require in physical facilities and equipment management.

At the moment, there are indications that problems exist in the management of physical facilities and equipment in South East states secondary schools. In Enugu state for example, Chiaha and Oboegbulem (2007) in a study of problems of school facilities and equipment maintenance in public secondary schools, discovered that there were shortages of buildings, furniture and equipment due to inadequate maintenance of these facilities. Ezugwu (2004), made a related finding in Anambra state where he attributed over-populated classes in secondary schools to shortage of classrooms resulting from inability to maintain the existing ones. In Imo and Abia states, Chika (2008), in his study of facilities provision and management in secondary schools, attributed the shortage of laboratory and gaming facilities and equipment   in the areas, to poor maintenance culture. The same applied to untidy learning environments.

As resource managers, the principals cannot claim ignorance over the  deplorable situations in the schools. Indeed, Chiaha and Oboegbulem (2007), Ezugwu (2004) and Chika (2008) returned similar results about the incompetence of principals in managing school facilities. The incompetencies were identified in the areas of utilization, supervising, maintaining and securing of the facilities. These were some of the competencies this study identified and investigated as being required by principals for effective physical facilities and equipment administration.

The last administrative competency for study related to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) administration. Edifiogho (2007), defined ICT competencies to refer to those skills and abilities which school principals require for using computers to store and retrieve information when needed. But this study went beyond this scope to also incorporate the skills and abilities to process, interpret, analyse and impart information, using computer or other multi-media facilities.

At the moment, ICT has brought much challenge to all areas of school administration. And as rightly noted by Association for African Universities (AAU) ICT Reports (2005), competency in ICT would facilitate administrative activities in staff management, students’ administration, finances, assets and maintenance, office activities and communication. In order to perform the duties of a principal effectively, Gurr (2000) and Bishop (2002) pointed out that the principal’s knowledge and competence in ICT is essential.

Unfortunately, it appears that secondary school principals in South-East are still lagging behind in this march towards technological advancement. In Anambra state for example, Obi (2003) noted that secondary school principals still cling firmly to the traditional manual methods of operations, due to incompetence in ICT skills. In a recent study on the challenges of ICT application in secondary schools by the principals also in Anambra State, Okeke and Modebelu (2010), confirmed Obi’s (2003) conclusion that the principals were incompetent in the application of ICT tools. They noted that the under-utilization of even the  few available ICT facilities was due to the principals incompetence in giving directives on ICT matters. It may be noted that the Anambra state Government recently donated computers to 100 secondary schools (ANIDS, 2010), One wonders how these machines would be effectively utilized in the face of principals’ incompetence in giving guidance in ICT utilization. In Imo state, Asiabaka (2009), in a study on the constraints of principals in the use of media technology, also discovered that one of the predominant constraints relates to principals’ incompetence in ICT skills.

The situation in Anambra and Imo States with regard to principals’ incompetence in ICT skills, is not only prevalent  in other areas of South East (Onuma, 2007), but also present in other areas of the country as indicated by Odumaiye (2007) in Kwara State, Ajayi and Ekundayo (2009) in Ondo and Ekiti States and Akuegwu and Udida (2007) in Cross River state.

The above situation is likely to lead to problems in secondary school administration, for example, in the area of record keeping and management in schools, Bosah (1997) noted that official transactions are delayed because correspondences are manually handled. The author further noted that lack of ICT application lead to loss of vital administrative records which are sometimes burnt under strange and mysterious circumstances.Odumaiye (2007) observed that incompetence of principals in the utilization of ICT facilities has implications for staff professional development as well as students’ performance, because access to current information will be difficult. In all, there will be lowered academic performance on the part of staff and students. This has already been noted in the case of mass failure in public examinations by the students.

One of the major ways of addressing the challenges arising from the incompetence of principals in school administration lies in the identification of the administrative competencies actually required by the principals. This informed the need for this study. It appears that administrative competencies are influenced by a number of factors, including age, experience, gender, and qualification. However, given its dominant influence, as revealed by literature (Uko, 2002), gender was chosen for special consideration in this study. Gender according to Robbins (1996) refers to the masculine or feminine group under which an individual, object or organization is classified.  Polland and Morgan (2002) in a related explanation, conceptualized gender to mean the socially constructed behavioural expectations for males and females, as well as the rights and obligations granted to them by the society. Both however agree that gender describes the biological sex of individuals in terms of being males or females. Azikiwe (2011) is in agreement with this position. This study however limited itself to the male and female classification of gender, especially as it relates to secondary school principals.

In an examination of gender as an influential factor in principals’ administrative competencies, studies appear to be inconclusive on the relationship between gender and administrative competencies. While some studies show evidence of male superiority over females in general task performance (Uko,2002; Okeke,2001; and Coley, 2001), some other studies reported that females specifically perform better in school administration (Crossman and Crossman, 2004; Daresh and  Male, 2000). In more specific terms, Ezugworie noted that female principals in Enugu State perform better in instructional supervision than their male counterparts. At international level, Highsmith and Rallis (1996) similarly noted that females are more competent in curricular and instructional leadership matters than their male counterparts.

In a related dimension, Oplatka (2006) reported that females in developing countries exhibit a combination of both masculine and feminine administrative competencies, and attributed it to the dorminace of male values in developing nations which make females to copy male values. Ugwu (2006), remarked that in the case of South-East Nigeria, there is the implicit assumption that males are superior to females in virtually all things that count, including school administration.

Despite the apparent slim controversy arising from the superiority of males over females, in terms of administrative competencies, many studies established that such differences do not really exist. However, it will still be interesting to see how both male and female principals rate the competencies they require in school administration, hence the inclusion of gender in the study.

Statement of the Problem

A critical look at the administration of secondary schools in Nigeria,  particularly in the South-East, reveals that principals have problems in many areas of school administration, traceable to the administrative incompetence of many of these principals themselves.  Literature identified five critical administrative areas which principals seem to have competency problems with, and these are in the areas of instructional leadership, personnel management, financial management, physical facilities and Information Communication and Technology Management.

In the area of instructional leadership, research evidence show that principals do not seem to have the relevant administrative competencies, hence the prevailing rampant cases of exam-malpractices, mass failure in public examinations and low academic achievements among students

As regards financial management, research results indicate prevailing cases of embezzlement, diversion of funds, abandonment of school projects, etc – all traceable to principals’ incompetent financial management practices.  If funds are not properly managed, it would only lead to inability of schools to provide basic teaching and learning facilities.

In the case of personnel management, the situation is not different. Serious concerns are being expressed by the general public, including parents in South-East, over the declining staff performances in schools, especially as it affects their children’s poor academic performances.

Similar situations prevail in the principals’ incompetence in the management of Information Communication and Technology and physical facilities, where poor record-keeping and infrastructural decay reveal the level of principals’ incompetency.  Incidentally, the role of gender as an influencing factor on the level of principals’ administrative competency, was not properly determined, because there is a controversy in this area.  This informed the inclusion of this variable in the study.

Put together, a number of studies have been carried out to address the problems of secondary school administration, resulting from administrative incompetencies of principals.  Such include some studies on principals’ leadership styles, principals’ instructional leadership and principals application of personnel management skills.  All the studies seem quite interesting in their theoretical sense, but evidences show that the problems of secondary school administration are still persisting.  Again, most of the studies focused mainly on administrative competencies possessed by the principals, without serious attention on the competencies they actually require. The researcher was therefore of the view that success in school administration will largely depend on principals who have the right administrative competencies which they are able to identify themselves.  This is where this study sought to make a contribution, because it explored the question: What administrative competencies do secondary school principals require for effective school administration?  Again, from the researcher’s personal experiences and interactions with some principals and teachers in some secondary schools in the study area, it was discovered that there is a gap in the leadership training to prepare principals for their role which needs to be filled, because, principals are basically trained as teachers and not as school administrators, and are appointed as principals on the basis of their teaching experience.  This study will hopefully fill the training gap they should have received if they had been trained as professional principals by making the information on the required competencies available to teacher trainers.


Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to determine the administrative  competencies required by principals of  secondary schools for effective school administration in South Eastern States. Specifically, the study sought to:

  1. identify the instructional leadership competencies required by secondary school principals.
  2. determine the personnel management competencies required by secondary school principals.
  3. find out the financial management competencies required by secondary school principals.
  4. determine the physical facilities and equipment management competencies required by secondary school principals.
  5. identify the information and communication technology competencies required by secondary school principals.



Significance of the Study

This study is important from both theoretical and practical points of view.  From the theoretical view point, the study has some theoretical significance for Behavioural Science Theory, which states that the best approach to facilitate work and productivity in an organization is through an understanding of the worker, the job content and the work environment.  The work environment specifically refers to the necessary facilities and conditions to make them useful in achieving goals.  Thus, an integration of the three dimensions of the theory will help the school administrator in realizing school goals. It is also hoped that the knowledge of this theory would help school principals identify competencies they require in dealing with various areas of school administration.

From the practical point of view, the findings may be of relevance to secondary school principals, teachers, students, Ministries of Education and Post Primary School Management Boards (PPSMB) in South East States, as well as the Association of Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS) and researchers.

To the principals, the study revealed a set of competencies they require in different areas of school administration.  It is expected that principals who become equipped with these identified competencies, will be in a better position to achieve better school administration, since there is research evidence that success in school administration, largely depends on principals who have the right administrative competencies (Edoka, 2008).

Teachers may also benefit from the results of this study.  Thus, as the principals become aware of the competencies required for staff personnel administration, the experience gained may assist the principals to work  more closely with the teachers and be able to identify their interests and needs.  This may create motivation and job satisfaction in the teachers, and help them to perform better in the school.

The findings of the study may also be beneficial to the students.  With the knowledge of the competencies required in instructional leadership for example, the principals will be in a better position to direct instructional programmes, which will in turn, help students to achieve better.  In this way, some disciplinary problems commonly associated with students (for example, exam-malpractices) may be eliminated.

Having identified the various administrative competencies required by the principals in different areas of school administration, the various State Ministries of Education, PPSMBs and ANCOPPS, could use the findings as a guide to organize conferences, seminars, and in-service programmes for their secondary school principals.  In this way, these competencies could further be internalised by the principals for more efficient school administration.

Finally, to researchers and text-book writers, the findings of this study could provide them with the basic empirical information on the administrative competencies required by principals for the overall improvement of the secondary education system.


Scope of the Study

The geographical scope is limited to the public senior secondary schools in the five South-East States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. On the other hand, the content scope is restricted to the principals’ required administrative competencies in areas of instructional leadership, personnel, financial, physical facilities and equipment, information and communication technology management.


Research Questions                                                     

The following research questions guided the study

  1. What instructional leadership competencies are required by male and female principals of different secondary schools in South East States?
  2. What are the personnel management competencies required by male and female principals of secondary schools in South East States?
  • What financial management competencies are required by male and female secondary schools principals in South East States?
  1. What physical facilities and equipment management competencies are required by male and female principals in secondary schools in South East States?