The main purpose of this study is to probe the understanding of principals of their role in the management of public school finance and the implementation of the finance policy. The following research question was used to investigate the problem: “What is the understanding of public school principals in the Maviljan Circuit, Mpumalanga Province of their role in the management of finances and the implementation of the finance policy of their schools? This circuit is situated in a rural area. Principals in the majority of the schools are not well qualified in financial management and most of the members of the parent component of the School Governing Body are illiterate. The South African Schools Act, Act 84 of 1996 (hereafter referred to as SASA) states that the SGB, of which the principal is an ex-officio member, must perform a variety of tasks such as section 20 and section 21 functions. Thus, the promulgation of the South African schools Act introduced innovations in public schools and changed the role of the principal regarding finance management and the implementation of the finance policy. Roles, duties and responsibilities of school managers have been revised. School managers themselves have had to undergo a shift in their thinking with regard to their roles in the new millennium (Sebate, 2006). It is in the best interest of schools and their learners that principals have a clear understanding of their role in the management of public school finance and the implementation of the finance policy, enabling them to manage school finances and implement the finance policy effectively.
The problem was investigated by means of a qualitative research approach using semi-structured interviews and document analysis in a purposive sample of five primary schools in the Maviljan Circuit, Mpumalanga Province. The investigation has led to a deeper understanding of the problem under investigation. Based on my findings, a number of recommendations are made and a number of aspects for further investigation have been identified to help in empowering or capacitating principals with knowledge and skills so that they can have a better understanding of their role in the management of public school finance and the implementation of the finance policy.