Sink or Swim: Teachers’ Stress Coping Mechanisms in a South African School


  • SybertMutereko
  • PepukayiChitakunye


This article explores the causes and nature of coping mechanisms designed to survive stress experienced during the implementation phase of the National Curriculum Statements (NCS) policy by teachers in South Africa. A discussion is presented of prior research documenting working conditions of teachers and other street-level bureaucrats in other countries. These analyses suggest that there is a dearth of literature on this topic in the African context. A mixed methods approach is used to explicate the emic teacher coping mechanisms that arise in the normalcy of everyday life. Insights are drawn from in-depth interviews (5), observation (65 days), survey (26) and 25 pages of detailed field notes, to explore the nature of coping mechanisms designed by teachers. The findings demonstrate that stress among teachers during NCS policy implementation emanate from scarcity of resources, goals and performance measures and relations with non-voluntary clients. In turn, teachers adopt coping mechanisms such as creaming, rubber stamping, referral, modifying the conception of work, private goal definition and withdrawal, which might affect the attainment of policy goals as teachers end up adapting the curriculum policy rather than implementing it as it is.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n27p698


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How to Cite

Mutereko, S., & Chitakunye, P. (2014). Sink or Swim: Teachers’ Stress Coping Mechanisms in a South African School. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(27 P2), 698. Retrieved from