Sources and patterns of stress among teachers : the case of Lusaka secondary schools

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Namangala, Phanwell H.
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Occupational stress has been described as an epidemic in that it is affecting every occupation, profession and work place around the globe (UNReport, 1998). The sources, patterns and other issues pertaining to occupational stress in organisations and work environments have recently attracted the interest of administrators, human resources management practitioners and researchers from various disciplines. This interest, inter alia, may have been motivated by findings which have associated stress at work with workers' poor physical and mental well-being, dissatisfaction with life and work, as well as low labour productivity. The study examined occupational stress as it occurs among secondary school teachers, as a selected category of workers, in Lusaka region. In particular, the study aimed at identifying the sources of teachers' tress, its patterns and the coping strategies used by teachers. Further, the study investigated the awareness of educational authorities of the problem of occupational stress among teachers. The study used a randomly selected sample of 187 secondary school teachers drawn from both public and private secondary schools around Lusaka urban and peri-urban. The main instrument used for data collection was a Teacher Stress Index Questionnaire (TSIQ) designed to elicit information about stress experienced on the job. The findings show that the major sources of occupational stress among teachers are poor conditions of service and work situations. Teaching and teaching-related activities emerged as the lowest source of occupational stress among the study sample. It was revealed that demographic factors such as gender, years of experience, qualifications and status, influenced respondents' perception of occupational stress. The results also made an interesting revelation that environmental stressors in urban schools contributed greatly to the total occupational stress experienced by teachers. Principal among these were extremes of temperature and destructive noise from certain neighbourhoods. One of the important observations made in this study was that of a possible nexus between occupational stress and infringement of workers' rights. In this regard it was observed that a good deal of job stress could be avoided if workers paid attention to their general as well as job-related rights. Most importantly, the study established that the major sources of stress among teachers were poor conditions of service and work situations. The coping strategies identified were collapsed into two categories. These were adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies. Adaptive coping included strategies such as seeking support from superiors, prioritizing workload, recognising limitations and talking to friends and close colleagues. On the other hand the major maladaptive strategies that emerged included denial, taking on more than can be handled, working long and irregular hours and avoiding discussing stressful experiences. The fact that maladaptive coping strategies emerged as the most frequently used was interpreted as indicating that the level of stress experienced by the teachers was extremely high, and that it was overtaxing the teachers' coping resources. In summary, with regards to coping strategies, it was discovered that teachers of different personal characteristics dealt with stress differently. The two major coping strategies used were adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies. The study also revealed that teachers were not receiving any assistance from the Ministry of Education to help them cope with the severe occupational stress they are facing. On the basis of the findings, some conclusions were drawn and some suggestions for further research of the phenomenon were given. In addition recommendations were made in the light of the findings. Finally it must be pointed out that although the study focused on teachers as a particular category of workers, the issues addressed and the principles generated have relevance to a wide spectrum of occupations and organisations.
Stress (psychology) -- Zambia , Teachers -- Zambia