Educator professional security in public schools over the past decade: A meta-synthesis
It is widely accepted that most of the aspects related to the nature and quality of an education system are closely linked to the positive or negative contribution of the educator in the system. Educators operate in their professional capacity within the South African legal framework and are subject, in their service delivery, to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, labour legislation, the South African Schools Act and other applicable legislation as well as a wide spectrum of common law principles that guide their actions. Educators likewise have to perform their professional duties in a societal environment directly influenced by political decisions and leadership, as well as an education environment that often reflects the societal ills such as corruption and other forms of criminality. This article points out, from both a fundamental rights perspective and a labour law perspective, that educators’ right to professional security, which is closely related to their constitutional and labour right to security, is not properly upheld by the relevant authorities. Such lack of professional security adversely influences the quality of their service delivery. The article draws from the findings of a set of postgraduate studies completed over the past decade, all forming part of a central project on educator security. A variety of types of educators, foci and research sites formed the settings for these studies, including beginner educators, early childhood educators, educators who have to cope with serious misconduct by either learners or fellow educators, and educators striving towards creativity. The research intends to reveal deeper insight into educator professional security in South Africa. This is achieved by means of a literature study and a legal analysis, as well as a meta-synthesis of the findings of the set of completed studies. A meta-synthesis is typically conducted when a researcher analyses data sets of completed studies, resulting in an integrated interpretation, which leads to a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of the primary findings. It was found in the studies mentioned that educators seriously lack the required basic knowledge of the law that will enable them to effectively cope with the demands of their profession, in particular regarding the application of legal principles. This lack of expertise creates legal risks and uncertainty among educators, leading to a general experience of insecurity. The article concludes with a concise exposition of the deeper insight gained regarding educator professional security. Although no generalisations can be drawn from the qualitative empirical research in these studies, this insight may be of value to those who strive towards educator security for the benefit of an individual, a school, or the public education system.