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Financial Challenges in school management and exploring alternative funding

Introduction and Problem

The advent of Christianity in Nigeria saw the birth of missionary schools in the country. The mission schools were coeval with the coming of Christianity because the missionaries believed that evangelization was effective through the establishment of schools. One of such missionary schools in Nigeria is the Catholic School. The schools are informed by ‘an inspirational ideology’ that makes them qualitatively different from public schools. This ideology celebrates the primacy of the spiritual, moral, and academic formation of the individual person (Gerald, 1995). The agents who translated these formal commitments into lived school experience were the clergymen and religious men/women who acted as principals. They valued academic excellence and students’ educational attainments. They were able to achieve this excellence because the schools were well funded by external agencies. However, in this century, foreign aids are not forthcoming; hence, local churches are encouraged to be self-sustaining, self-propagating, and self-reliant.

Consequently, it is becoming more difficult for Catholic school principals of today to maintain the standard set for them with the available resources. From a survey, 80% of the principals in Catholic schools maintained that school fees and the small grant (if any) they receive from the mission are not enough for school management. This lean financial base has a negative effect on the learning output. The principals cannot do much in the face of insufficiency or scarcity of funds.   

Considering the challenging situation in Catholic schools in Nigeria with a particular reference to Catholic schools in our Diocese, there is a need for effective school leaders who can realize the goals and objectives of education in our Diocese. Such an effective leader should have the capabilities to address numerous challenges in school organizations that require the use of the entrepreneurial leadership paradigm. Unfortunately, many school leaders are not trained sufficiently in entrepreneurship education. Lack of entrepreneurship education could have a negative impact on the effective management of our schools. Researchers have discovered that   the complexity of our schools, scarcity of funds, and the environment in which the schools operate demand leaders who can manage multiple functions of the organization with little funding. In many schools in the western world, school leadership has taken on a more entrepreneurial role, with the school leaders exploring and managing resource development through private donors, intellectual property, land development, and investment for more revenue for the schools.

The trend of events today in Catholic schools calls for principals who are prepared to exercise their managerial expertise in innovative and creative ways. It means we need principals who are entrepreneurial in school management. The question is: why do they need to be entrepreneurial in school management? What is it all about?

The Concept of Entrepreneurialism

The early 1990s saw the introduction of a new terminology into educational language: entrepreneurship or entrepreneurialism. There are some arguments as to which of the words is the noun. According to Anderson, “entrepreneurialism…. Describes a concept that is approaching that of entrepreneurship” (Coleman & Anderson, 2000, p. 42). Researching entrepreneurialism in education and going through the literature, the following terminologies appeared across the literature as defining entrepreneurial leadership:

  • Visionary (Roomi & Harrison, 2011; Pihie, 2014).
  • Innovative (Currie at al., 2008; Xaba & Malindi 2010).
  • Risk-taking (Hentschke & Caldwell, 2007; Borassi & Finnigan, 2010).
  • Problem-solving (Currie at al., 2008; Borasi & Finnigan, 2010).
  • Creative (Currie at al., 2008; Pashiardis & Savvides, 2011).
  • Networkers – collaboration (Smith, 2003; Scott & Webber, 2015).
  • Resourceful – practical, pragmatic (Borasi & Finnigan, 2010).

The concept of entrepreneurship is borrowed from the business world. It is an integrated concept that innovatively permeates an individual’s business. According to Binks and Vale (cited in Coleman & Anderson 2000, p. 42), “the essence of entrepreneurship is to perceive worthwhile opportunities and to act upon them.” In this light, Casson (1982) defines an entrepreneur as ‘someone who specializes in taking judgmental decisions about the coordination of scarce resources. Again, Donald (2003) says:

Entrepreneurship is a dynamic process of vision, change, and creation. It requires an application of energy and passion towards the creation and implementation of new ideas and creative solutions. Essential ingredients include the willingness to take calculated risks in terms of time, equity, or career; the ability to formulate an effective venture team; the creative skill to marshal needed resources: and fundamental skill of building solid business plan; and finally, the vision to recognize opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction, and confusion. (p.2)

One element that is obvious in the concept of entrepreneurialism is the ‘enterprise spirit.’ Green Paper defines enterprise spirit as the “attitude and the process of creating an economic activity by combining the assumption of risk, creativity, and innovation with solid management, either in an existing organization or a new one” (cited in Verguizas et al., 2004, p.47).

Entrepreneurship is considered as an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action, to be innovative, take the initiative, take risks, plan, and manage projects to achieve objectives. It suggests that entrepreneurial leadership refers to the school principal’s ability to improve and apply innovations that would lead to effective teaching and learning process, which will, in turn, promote school improvement. In examining entrepreneurship, Mars and Metcalf describe entrepreneurship as “those activities that combine risk, innovation, and opportunity particularly in times of uncertain resources…” (p.3).

Often, scholars use the terms ‘entrepreneurial’ and ‘entrepreneurialism’ in a school context not necessarily to be understood with the idea of profit gain, risk-taking, and even commercial activities rather as leadership attitudes in attempting to ‘stand up’ and be self-reliant. Entrepreneurial leadership is a distinctive type of leadership required in schools for dealing with challenges and crises with a view of improving the school (Gupta, MacMillan & Surie, 2004). In this sense, Pashiardis and Savvide (2011) refer to entrepreneurialism as ‘the creative use of external networks and resources in order to aid the implementation of the school mission’ (p. 415). Literature suggests that entrepreneurial leaders are motivated and propelled by their aspiration to reflect on how to concurrently build social, environmental, as well as economic prospects in schools. These types of school leaders are not deterred or discouraged by problems such as lack of resources and disadvantaged areas. Instead, such leaders confront these circumstances and innovatively provide solutions to organizational problems.

Furthermore, Block picks up this element underpinning the concept of entrepreneurial spirit. He explains, “This spirit is typified by responsibility, public accountability, interactive professionalism, and the recognition that playing positive politics is essential, possible, and the key to effectiveness” (cited in Coleman & Anderson, 2000, p.44). Campbell and Growther link this concept to school. For them, entrepreneurial school is “one in which there exists a passionate commitment to using all available resources to create new ideas and actions that will enrich the quality of education, and life generally, within the school and its community” (cited in Coleman & Anderson, 2000). It is a call to show initiative and resourcefulness in school management. It is the ability to harness the available resources to create and develop new approaches in management. It could be to develop new ideas on how to use available resources, how to create improvement within the working environment for the benefit of both staff and students, how to change long-established practices to enable the school to develop, how to maximize the talents of the staff, and how to generate additional resources, to mention but a few.

Today, there is an increasing government emphasis on financial entrepreneurialism and income generation in schools. Even in private schools like Catholic schools, proprietors are encouraging the school heads to supplement the school fees through entrepreneurial activities. Like a business entrepreneur who engages in a range of income-generating activities in addition to his primary business venture, principals are urged to engage in other activities that will yield income for schools. In this paper, more focus will be on one aspect of entrepreneurship in school management, which is the ability to develop new ideas in generating more resources for the school. However, other aspects will be stressed from time to time.

Characteristics of an Entrepreneurial Leader

In this section, we shall explore the characteristics and behaviours of entrepreneurial leaders in schools that have been identified in the literature. These characteristics have been categorized into four key areas of Entrepreneurial Competence: (1) Strategic Thinking and Visioning; (2) Team Building, Personnel Management, and Development; (3) Communication and Negotiation Skills, and (4) Financial Resources Mobilization and Optimization.

1. Strategic Thinking and Visioning

  • Driven by a vision. “Having a clear vision and being able to share it with the followers effectively.
  • Outward looking (Smith, 2003; Pashiardis & Savvide, 2011). Within the global context, entrepreneurs seek ongoing access to information from their contexts and also from around the world’ (Scott & Webber 2013).
  • Risk-takers (Hentschke & Caldwell, 2007; Gupta et al., 2004; Woods & Wood, 2009). It is acknowledged that risk-taking in public and private sector organisations (especially, Catholic schools) needs to be ‘well-calculated and prudent’ and ‘qualified.’ The reason for this is that the acceptance of failure, which is typically associated with entrepreneurial behaviour is not tolerated by many sectors. Risk-taking, therefore, needs to be ‘balanced.’
  • Innovativeness– (Borasi & Finnigan, 2010). Innovativeness is the ability and tendency of entrepreneurial leaders to think creatively and develop novel and practical ideas relating to opportunity recognition, resource utilization, and problem-solving.
  • Time management skills (Scott &Webber, 2013).
  • Creative and able to recognize opportunities (Hentschke & Caldwell, 2007). Having a unique approach to opportunities, which involves both proactively seeking and being ready to seize opportunities.”
  • Proactiveness is being active in creating and leading toward the future rather than passively waiting to be affected by it. By being proactive, entrepreneurial leaders do not only explore new opportunities for entrepreneurial activities, but also step into action and exploit the opportunities to improve the organization’s performance.
  • Dealing with resources. Entrepreneurs need to secure the necessary funding for any initiative they want to launch and be ready to manage the scarce resources.
  • Decision-making and problem-solving. There is a need for entrepreneurs to make decisions and solve problems quickly.
  • Dealing with growth. It is in the nature of entrepreneurs to push for expansion or continued growth of the business or organization to achieve greater revenues and success.

2. Team Building, Personnel Management, and Development

  • The ability to create a culture that fosters entrepreneurial activity amongst staff. You can achieve this by acting as ‘change agents’ and ensuring distributed leadership. Let the team own the vision and sell the idea to them.
  • The ability to appoint key people and build a team that is committed to enacting the vision. 
  • The ability to ‘bring people on board’ (Currie et al., 2008) – work to collaborate with all stakeholders. Try to build coalitions that knit together public and private interests.
  • The ability to resolve conflict and build relationships (Scott & Webber, 2013).
  • Communication and Negotiation Skills
  • Be a master at creative networking- locally, nationally, and internationally (Pashiardis & Savvide, 2011).
  • They clearly articulate their vision- let your message be definite and clear (Woods& Wood, 2009). Avoid vague and ambiguous instructions. 
  • Financial Resources Mobilization and Optimization.
  • Not constrained by resources (Borasi & Finnigan, 2010).
  • The creative use of resources in order to aid the implementation of the school mission’ (Pashiardis & Savvide, 2011).
  • Ready to seize opportunities (Borasi & Finnigan, 2010).

Entrepreneurship and School Management

History has shown that in the past, principals were able to succeed, at least partially, by simply carrying out the directives of the central administrator (Perez et al., 1999). But “management” by the principal is no longer enough to meet today’s educational challenges, instead, principals must assume a greater leadership role. As an entrepreneurial principal, a leader should explore environments both within and outside the school to map out new directions, obtain necessary resources, respond to present challenges and future threats. Such a leader recognizes that a change is imminent and even strives for its creation. He takes a step further to generate income for the school by taking advantage of any given opportunity to raise funds for the school. It means he has to be creative and innovative.

Moreover, creating an entrepreneurial culture in schools is vital for successful transformational leadership in education. An entrepreneurial principal sets out to create a culture that supports and encourages an entrepreneurial approach to management. For Coleman and Anderson (2000, p. 46), “the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage the culture.” It means a leader should be able to create a situation in the school that encourages initiative.

To be entrepreneurial in school management entails risk and courage. Sixty percent (60%) of those surveyed maintained that to be entrepreneurial entails risk. It means that an entrepreneurial principal must be courageous enough to take the risk. According to Boyett and Finlay (cited in Coleman et al., 2000, p. 45), “risk is the opportunity cost of innovation. The more adverse to risk an institution is, the greater their reluctance to innovate.” The principal of St. Mary Catholic school, Benin City, Nigeria, who was interviewed, said: “life is a risk itself; whoever wants to succeed in life must be prepared to take the risk.” He added: opening a bookshop in my school was a risk, but today it is a great source of income to the school.

Again, time is another factor to be considered. Managing and carrying out entrepreneurial activities takes time. There must be a conscientious effort to invest time in innovative activities. For the principal of St. Charles’s secondary school, “time is money; time is another opportunity cost of innovation and creativity.” He succeeded in his school management because of the time he puts into entrepreneurial activities like a bookshop, canteen services, project launching, to mention but a few.

Entrepreneurship and School Financing

Though there are challenges, an entrepreneurial leader must design a compass to navigate the way to success. Do you know that you can manage a school without school fees? You need to look inward and generate income for the school. Entrepreneurial leaders are not discouraged by organizational challenges, such as limited financial and material resources. Rather, they devise various means of providing ways to solve organizational problems. Research and literature have shown how entrepreneurialism works in schools. Clark (1998) suggested that entrepreneurial leader transforms schools through five elements: “a strengthened steering core; an expanded developmental periphery; a diversified funding base; a stimulated academic heartland; and an integrated entrepreneurial culture” (p. 5). These suggested elements provide a framework for initiating change through entrepreneurial attitudes, skills, and behaviours.

  1. Envision what is possible within the school.
  2. See all the students and stakeholders as your customers. How many students do you have?
  3. Adopting entrepreneurialism requires the school leader to carry out a need assessment in the school and provide rapid responsiveness “to the changing needs and emerging challenges of the school and its environment. Find out

what the school community needs – students, parents, and even teachers.

  • Hem-in the school income – groom and revolve your money within the school. Do not create business for others. Customize all school items.
  • Block all leakages – strive for cashless transactions.
  • Go into investments for the school.
  • Have a passion for what you do.

One of the major functions of resource management is to attract resources into the organization. In situations where resource allocation or grants to schools are not sufficient, school managers may attempt to acquire additional resources through entrepreneurial activities. Such entrepreneurial activities can range from low-level fund-raising through sales and other events in the school to the appointment of a business manager whose role it is to generate income for the school.

In five Catholic schools surveyed in Nigeria, eighty percent (80%) of the principals maintained that it was obvious that school fees and grants from the Church were not enough for school financing. There is a dire need to source for additional resources through entrepreneurial activities.

Fund-Raising

There are different ways in which Catholic schools generate funds. One of these ways is thanksgiving/bazaar sale, and it is a good avenue of generating funds in our churches as well (parents and friends are invited, and funds are raised through the sales of items, such as fruits, clothes, brought to the church as offerings). Other ways of generating funds include farming as a school project, the sales of raffle-tickets, inter-house sports competitions, among others. The aim is to get additional revenue for the school. Again, fund-raising projects are set up with a specific intended outcome, like building a classroom block or buying a school bus.

Furthermore, schools can set up businesses that can generate income. In the survey, through the open questions in the questionnaire, research found that Catholic schools have the following income-generating activities bookshops, lettings, canteen services, business center for photocopying, Internet, and computer services, CBT, agriculture (Poultry and Piggery), supermarket, shares, summer classes, excursions, water factory, accommodations, laundry services, tailoring shops, to mention a few. These activities have increased the income of these schools and contributed to school development,

Besides, many schools are financed through sponsorship. Companies like Coca-Cola, Nigeria Breweries Plc, have, in the past, supported many schools in Nigeria. The ability of an entrepreneurial principal to liaise with such companies will lead to greater income. According to principal James, the Coca-Cola Company sponsored its 2018 inter-house sports competition, and this brought a lot of income into the school. Again, such companies often give students scholarships. Benefactors can also be sought from within and outside the country. All in all, these are possible when principals are innovative.

Entrepreneurialism and School Improvement

Schools of the twenty-first century will require a new kind of principal, in fact, an entrepreneurial principal. A competent entrepreneurial principal is a central factor for an effective school. An active entrepreneur is alert to opportunities and unfulfilled needs; able to carry the reputation and the emotional risk involved in pursuing a course of action with uncertain consequences; and able to assemble and coordinate teams or networks of individuals and organizations that have the talents and resources necessary to undertake change (Teske &Schneider, 1999). An active entrepreneur is the kind of principal needed in Catholic schools.

Findings indicate that school principals need to acquire and practise entrepreneurial leadership characteristics to improve their school effectiveness and to facilitate the process of school innovation. Thornberry (2006), using his model, found that entrepreneurial leadership at both individual and managerial stages leads to the effectiveness of schools. Thornberry (2006) focused on both personal and interactive skills required by leaders and found a significant relationship between entrepreneurial leadership practice and school effectiveness. In other words, the higher the level of entrepreneurial leadership practiced by school principals, the more effective the school becomes. The implication is that it requires the ability of the school principal to identify different ways to improve and develop the school, support the suggestions of teachers for improving the school and engage a broad network of experts both within and outside the school that are willing to help if the need arise. Such actions will lead to a strong instructional focus, a high level of discipline in schools, and above all, an effective school system.

In a recent study, Xaba and Malindi (2010) identified the entrepreneurial characteristics of the principals in historically disadvantaged schools. The study found that principals in such schools unconsciously practise innovativeness, proactiveness, and risk-taking to overcome the constraints in the school environment, particularly the required resources, and the efforts have led to an improvement in the school. This finding was supported by Bergland and Holman that the ability of the school principal to explore and harness available human and material resources to develop the school often leads to school improvement.

Finally, what is obvious from the above is that educational entrepreneurship will continue to be held in high esteem and be necessary for management. Reasoning along this line, Boyett and Finlay say, “accepting this approach can effectively reduce the cost of managing change, while simultaneously encouraging a more positive approach to innovation and the increase of quality levels in the … educational system”(cited in Coleman & Anderson 2000, p.56). 

Challenges in being an Entrepreneurial Leader

Entrepreneurial leadership is not without its challenges. It is important to highlight the challenges and constraints entrepreneurial leaders faced in practicing this leadership style in schools.

  • Centralization of school management – leading to conformity.
  • The bureaucracy inherent in the public and Catholic schools makes school leaders answerable to a range of stakeholders- students, parents, governors, sponsors, governments, etc. Such bureaucracy has the potential to impose incompatible demands on school leaders.
  • Performativity and accountability agendas- targets, inspections, league tables
  • Working within education systems around the world where Head Teachers have limited autonomy over resources, staffing, and curriculum.
  • Instability and frequent change in leadership – Researchers have recommended ten years minimum.

Conclusion

The entrepreneurial principal needs to be innovative and creative in order to succeed. McGhan (2003) argues that all principals cannot be entrepreneurs since they are not all gifted with innovation and creativity. He says:

We are skeptical as to how many current principals can perform successfully as entrepreneurs. Our experience has been that principals are the most poorly supervised class of employees in a district, and they often have low credibility for leadership with their teachers. While some scholars feel that leopards can change their spots, and non-entrepreneurial principals can become entrepreneurs, we remain unconvinced” (McGhan, 2003, pp. 3-4).

In management, greater input leads to greater output. This assertion is not always true. It is the opinion of 80% of those surveyed that a well-funded school is not always the most effective school. It is one thing to get more funds; it is another thing to allocate it properly and manage it judiciously. It takes an entrepreneurial skill to envision, generate funds, and manage it to realize the vision. We need an effective leader and not just the funds to have an effective school. A transformational leader must be able to relate all his/her activities to the operational core of the school to achieve effective results.

Furthermore, Caldwell and Spinks (1993) argue that entrepreneurialism is a requirement for successful leadership in self-managing schools like Catholic schools. They opine that the strategies available … are not only workable but also eminently desirable to the extent that they have educational integrity. The intention is to enhance the quality of education. The processes involved should enrich the work of educational leaders and create opportunities for educational leadership. They should pervade in the self-managing school (Cited in Coleman & Anderson, 2000).

Finally, there must be caution in engaging in entrepreneurial activities as a principal. There must be no shift from the operational core of education to commercial activities. Caldwell and Spinks (1992) say the entrepreneurial aspect of management can be carried out with the highest educational integrity, maintain a focus on the central purposes of schooling (cited in Coleman & Anderson, 2000). When the two are well integrated and properly managed, it will bring about success in schools; since the money generated will enhance greater learning outcomes.

Ways Forward:

  1. The school heads need entrepreneurial education. It is lucid that entrepreneurship can be taught. Business educators and professionals have evolved beyond the myth that entrepreneurs are born, not made. Drucker (1985) says, “the entrepreneurial charisma: It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious, and it has nothing to do with the genes. It’s a discipline; it can be learned” (cited in Kuratko, 2003, p.12).
  2. Secondary school heads should utilize all components of entrepreneurial leadership in the discharge of their duties to promote school effectiveness and encourage creativity/innovation among the teachers. 
  3. The policymakers in Catholic schools should take into consideration the utilization of entrepreneurial leadership in policy design, implementation, and evaluation towards achieving school effectiveness.

The educators recommend that there should be some degree of autonomy given to the principals in school management. Autonomy would allow them to be innovative and creative; consequently, this will lead to school improvement.

Rev. Fr. Theophilus Itaman PhD

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