It is now globally accepted that all children have the right to basic education as a fundamental human right. This right must not only be guaranteed, but also fulfilled holistically to meet all children’s educational needs. This occurs when its three dimensions, namely, access, quality and safe conditions are equally addressed. In other words, the right to basic education is fulfilled when all children have access to quality education in a safe school environment. For this reason, the state has a duty to promote and protect this right entirely. In South Africa, the state has put in place a legislative and policy framework to meet its obligation in this regard. However, despite the state’s efforts in creating child-friendly school conditions, children in schools still experience challenges that negatively impinge upon their educational rights. Such challenges include school dropout, grade repetition together with poor academic performance and achievement. The problem is rooted in the disconnection between access to education, school safety and quality education, putting the spotlight on the school principal’s leadership. This paper concludes that refocusing on the application of the school leadership theory has the potential to reduce the problem.
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