This article investigates how school principals in Sierra Leone interpret and enact a national education reform program. Through a sense-making lens, this qualitative study explores how the principals perceive and enact a reform program while maintaining their leadership role within the schools and communities they serve. In this study, we collect data from twelve school principals from three localities in Sierra Leone. The research suggests that in an environment where money and the resources money can purchase are consistently in short supply, the involvement of school principals in the design and communication of a national reform program is critical to the implementation of said program. School principals’ sense-making of the reform program is centered on three primary themes, all of which are linked to the lack of funding for quality education in Sierra Leone and the noninvolvement of the school principals in the design of the program: (1) teacher compensation and commitment, (2) unfunded mandates, and (3) mismatched expectations. These themes, linked to the underlying context of managing schools in low resource environments, influence the principals’ interpretations and willingness to enact the reform program.
School principals making sense of a national reform agenda
The case of Sierra Leone