This study identifies and describes the effect of occupational stress in the life of public primary school head teachers in Tanzania. The study involved 100 respondents systematically randomly selected from Chamwino and Dodoma urban districts. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were adopted in which interviews, structured questionnaires and documentary reviews were employed. The findings revealed that head teachers in rural public primary schools studied express experiencing more stress than those in urban schools as a result head teachers suffer as far as school administration is concern. The findings of this study recommend that the government should empower head teachers in terms of training on stress coping strategies as well as resources allocation as a possible measure to facilitate teaching and learning.
Key words: Stress manifestations, Location of school, School administration, Teaching-Learning Process.
1.1 Background Information
Teaching has been identified as one of the most stressful occupation in many countries (Cooper et al., 1988; Moore, 2005). The main reason behind this fact is that a higher incidence of stress related illness is more pronounced among people whose jobs require them to bear a large amount of responsibility for the welfare of the others (Bernard, 1990). Many school head teachers and teachers make a big commitment to the pupils they teach and this can include strong emotional ties. They have to deal with a wide range of pupils’ needs including academic and non academic needs. They are expected to spend most of their working time giving of themselves to others and have to perform a wide variety of activities unrelated to their job description, including ministering to the emotional and family problems of students (Bernard, 1990; Mlaki, 2007).
According to Dash (2008), the school head teachers, as educational leaders, hold the key position in the school. As an important component of the school administration, he has two important responsibilities: the administration of the school and the supervision of the personnel involved in teaching and learning situation. Everything in the school, the facilities, the staff, the curriculum, methods and techniques of teaching, and extracurricular activities are organized by him or her. In particular, Dash (2008, p.156), stresses that:
“The efficiency of the school depends on the ability and skill, personality and professional competence of the head teacher. He may be described as the sun around which the educational planets revolve. He is the moon among lesser stars. The character of the school reflects and proclaims the professional character of the headmaster. He is the seal and the school is the wax. He is the organizer, the leader, governor, business director, coordinator, superintendent, example, teacher, parent, guide, philosopher and a friend”.
In the light of the explanations above, it is obvious that, head teachers have many responsibilities. For example, in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, responsibilities of the head teachers have increased due to expansion of the schools and the demands of the parents for quality education. Sizes of the schools have been increasing leading to the problem of management which as well leads to stress (Mlaki, 2011).
1.2 The Concept of Stress
Understanding the concept of stress provides the basis on which its sources and manifestations could be easily articulated. There are various definitions of stress. For example, Maslach & Jackson (1981) defined stress as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. While Byrne, (1991) defines stress as the facet of emotional exhaustion that occurs when head teachers are unable to physically and emotionally provide for students due to overwhelming feelings of fatigue and stress.
Another definition of stress is given by Kyriacou (2001) who defines teaching stress as unpleasant negative feelings such as frustrations, tension or anger resulted from some aspect of their work as head teachers. He emphasizes that, stress emerge depending on the way head teachers and teachers react and adapt to demands and threats they encounter in teaching. Bernard, (1990) adds that, demands are the many and varied activities which are required to be performed on daily basis while threats; refer to the actions of others which can harm one physically, physiologically, but mostly psychologically.
Furthermore, various models have been developed to explain occupational stress. For example, Dewe and O’Driscoll (2001), Rout and Rout (2002), developed a model of stress which emanates from physics, in particular the field of engineering. According to the model stress is viewed as a condition of the environment that is external to the individual and influences him or her in a disruptive way (Koslowski 1998; Bemansour 1998,; Cooper et al. 2001; Rout and Rout 2002,). The perceptions of the individual are not taken into account in this approach. According to this model the load or demand placed upon a person (known as a stressor) exceeds the elastic limit’ of the person’s ability to cope or adapt to it (Tosi and Rizzo 2000; Rout and Rout 2002, 20). Stressors are defined as the agents or demands that elicit the stress response (Seley, 1991)
Figure 1: Model of Stress
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This model has the potential for organizations (schools) to identify stressors that might affect most of their employees (Rout and Rout 2002,). For example head teachers are expected to execute various and diverse activities while facing enormous volumes of individual, social and professional responsibilities in today’s fast-paced world, which could lead them to experience stress (Dash, 2008).
1.3 Study Objectives
i) To investigate the indicators occupational stress of head teachers in primary schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts.
ii) To determine and consequences of occupational stress among head teachers in primary schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts.
iii) To determine to which extent does school location predict the stress level of the head teachers in primary schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts .
1.4 Research Questions
i) What are the indicators of occupational stress of head teachers in primary schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts?
ii) What are the consequences of stress among primary school head teachers in Dodoma and Chamwino districts?
iii) To what extent does school location predict the stress level of the head teachers in primary schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts?
1.5 Conceptual Framework
A conceptual framework explains, either graphically or in a narrative form, the main things to be studied, including the key factors that are constructs or variables and the presumed relationship among them (Miles and Huberman, 1994). This study adapted the conceptual framework from Bernard (1990), which covers three dimensions: the predictors, mediating variables and the target variables in the head teachers stress.
A predictor variable is one whose values are used to determine the values of the outcome variables. A predictor variable is analogous to the independent variables. Target variable is the one whose values are to be modeled and predicted by the other variables. Mediating variable describes how, rather than when effects will occur by accounting for the relationship between the independent and dependent variables (Miles and Huberman, 1994).
In this study, predictor variables comprised the organizational factors, personal factors and community factors for enhancing teaching and learning process. The presence of working and living conditions such as head teachers’ offices, classrooms with their furniture and availability of teachers help to predict the quality of delivery of education.
Target variables are influenced by the presence of good working and living conditions for creation of stress free environment. They include human and non -human resources for quality education, head teachers expectations, supportive parents and community around the school.
Mediating variables play a significant role in realizing teaching and learning outcome competencies, created by a conducive environment. There should be reliable coping techniques to control sources of stress in more constructive ways. Stakeholders need to be mobilized to contribute resources. Also there should be good school-community relationship and a strong social support for head teachers. It is believed that although the head teachers face economic and social challenges in their work places, the presence of coping strategies will help them to minimize and overcome the challenges. The task of the present study was to explore the extent to which these assumptions could be corroborated in practice.