Printer Friendly

Ubuntugogy for the 21st century.


The state of community life in general, and of education in particular, in Africa south of the Sahara (henceforth also referred to as the sub-continent) seems to indicate that Africans have failed somewhat in their efforts to provide for themselves lives of good quality. Malala's (1) complaint that the African century has failed to dawn can be ascribed inter alia to the fact that sub-continental Africans seem not to have mastered the art of peaceful coexistence. (2) Life in this part of the world has for decades now been characterized by wars, violence, soaring crime rates and delinquent behavior, also in the more subtle forms of sexism, xenophobia, selfishness, collapse of family life, a growing gap between the rich and the poor, corruption and racism. (3) Such conditions are detrimental to the quality of personal and communal life. (4)

Similar conditions prevail in schools. In many areas, life in schools has been characterized by violence, destruction of property, laziness, a lack of punctuality, weak performance, learner and teacher delinquency and self-centredness--in brief, by a general lack of moral literacy. (5)

This portrayal of life on the sub-continent does not sit well with the precepts of the traditional African philosophy of life known as Ubuntu (in the Nguni languages; Botho in the Sotho languages, Hunhu in Shona, Bisoite in Lingala-Baluba, Ujamaa in Kiswahili, Harambee in Kenya). (6) According to Ubuntu, a person is who s/he is only because of the existence of others and because of his/her coexistence with them. If this is indeed the world-view according to which the people of the sub-continent live, why do we then find the inhabitants of the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau (to mention only a few of the hotspots) to seemingly have lost sight of this sentiment? Why has Ubuntu failed to inspire the people of the sub-continent towards peaceful coexistence and democracy?

Failure to live according to the precepts of Ubuntu constitutes a threat to the freedom of the people. (7) Similar perpetrations also occur in other parts of the world. They are a function of how the respective life-views impact on people, their morality and their behavior. Unfortunately, we have to confine our attention to the situation in Africa. It is not the purpose of this article to harp on the negative conditions prevailing on the sub-continent or on the perceived failure of its inhabitants to live according to the tenets of Ubuntu. Neither is its purpose to once again proclaim the already well-known virtues of Ubuntu as a potential contributor to enhanced quality of life. Instead, the purpose of this paper is to consider the possibility of Ubuntugogy being a more suitable approach for sub-Saharan Africa than typical Western-style colonial education.

While having borrowed the term 'Ubuntugogy' from Bangura, (8) I shall follow his lead only partially. I shall argue that two sets of changes have to be made to render Ubuntugogy more amenable to the demands of the modem, globalized, urbanized and industrialized circumstances on the African subcontinent. Firstly, Ubuntu, that is the life-view that forms the sub-stratum of Ubuntugogy, has to be updated, modernized or reconstructed to put it more in line with the demands of 21st century life. Secondly, while the notion of Ubuntugogy in itself remains attractive as a return to the classic past of Africa, it also needs filling with more appropriate content. It needs a global format to be able to address the needs of modern sub-continental Africans. (9) Because of their traditional tribal limitations, a simple return to Ubuntu and Ubuntugogy will not pass muster in modern African societies. Pedagogical input from the northern hemisphere has to be included in the new approach. Ubuntu and Ubuntugogy also need filling with new moral content. (10) The rest of this article contains proposals about this reconstruction process.


Ubuntu as a traditional tribal life-view could be updated or modernized in several ways. This is a prerequisite for it to become a suitable sub-stratum for a similarly updated or modemized version of Ubuntugogy. The horizontal spirituality of Ubuntu could receive attention. Because of the traditional horizontal spirituality of Ubuntu, an individual could see no value in deeds and behavior unrelated to the practices and rituals of the group to which s/he belonged. (11) The expression 'a person is only a person with and through other people' possessed, according to Bangura, (12) unmistakeable spiritual or religious undertones since it referred not only to living persons but also to the ancestors. A person found himself or herself tied to others, including the ancestors, in a total mystic union. (13) A person saw him- or herself as a vital link in the cosmic chain of vital forces; s/he was a link in the chain 'upwards', i.e. with the ancestors, as well as 'downwards', i.e. with the descendants. (14) Each individual was therefore involved in a spiritual transaction with all the ramifications of his or her community. (15) A person's own birth was unimportant in the greater scheme of things; s/he only acquired significance through living and working with other people and through taking responsibility for the self and others. Moral values and traditional codes of behavior were seen as sanctioned by the gods and the ancestors. Human behavior therefore always found itself in the balance between the spiritual world and the human world. (16) As a concession to Western influences, greater recognition could be accorded to the status of the individual while still recognizing the importance of the group to which s/he belongs and its interests. (17) Greater recognition of the status of the individual and his or her group is important for counteracting the modem economic logic of maximizing which tends to force individuals and their interests to the background. (18) Individual interests should not be allowed to disappear into group or communal interests. Each person should be seen as a link in the chain of vital forces, but not as having value only because of being a link. Each individual is important in his or her own right.

Although the vital link between individual and ancestors/descendants may become less significant because of this subtle change in how the individual is viewed, modern sub-continental Africans should never lose sight of his / her duties, privileges and responsibilities towards the self and others. Since it is unrealistic to conceive the fulfilment of duties etc. in a modern society as a response to divine or ancestral injunctions, each member of a community should feel him- or herself morally bound to the precepts of some or other Manifesto of Human Rights (as part of modern constitutions, or as declarations by organizations such as the United Nations). They should furthermore feel bound to such duties etc. because of the moral imperatives flowing from their personal religious affiliations, convictions and life views.

This adaptation to Ubuntu will give new meaning to the idea of human rights. (19) It will help tone down the excessive self- and group-centeredness of Ubuntu and to transform it into moral behavior that could benefit the entire sub-continental (educational) community. This proposal also resonates with the theory of communitarianism: individualism should be toned down in favor of collective values and aims. (20)

In the second place, Ubuntu's traditional dualistic nature should be eradicated but not be replaced with Western-style dualisms. Ubuntu traditionally embraced the notion that the mortality, the limitedness, the contingency and finiteness of the human being could and should be counterbalanced by his or her connections and relatedness with others in the group. (21) This dualism could be eliminated by placing stronger emphasis on the inherent monism, (22) integrity and holism of Ubuntu, (23) not by replacing it with, for instance, the typical Western two-realm dualism of (for instance) the secular (worldly) as opposed to the sacral (holy) realms of life.

In the third place, the vertical spirituality of Ubuntu could be updated. Africans originally believed in the existence of spiritual, even mystical forces and powers, and because of their anxiety about the brevity of their existence on earth, they not only subjected themselves to these forces (which could be gods, the Christian God, spirits or ghosts) but also sought safety in the group. (24) Updating here could include enjoining each individual and his/her group to attach themselves to a religious source (God / god) that makes sense to them in a modern context. (25) Each inhabitant of the sub-continent should not only enjoy the freedom to draw inspiration from this source but also enjoy peaceful coexistence despite religious and life view differences.

Part of this process would involve updating Ubuntu values by 'thickening' them with relevant life view content. Swartz (26) and Zecha (27) pointed out that the names of values as such do not have moral significance because such names are susceptible to relativistic interpretation. The name of a value signifies a 'thin' value, i.e. a minimalist, limited, general and public description that would suit public consensus. 'Thick' values, on the other hand, refer to private, maximalist, religious, life-view, confessional and even prescriptive value formulations that fall outside public consensus. (28) The moral 'thickening' of a value entails more than a broad description of a 'thin' value. For example, to describe the Ubuntu value of 'respect for others' as 'refraining from derogatory language and abusive labels' (29) is merely a broader description and falls short of life-view and moral 'thickening'.

The values embodied in Ubuntu could be updated with content from the respective religious affiliations and life-views of the individuals and groups living on the sub-continent. Each person and his or her group could 'thicken' Ubuntu values such as human dignity, humanism, empathy, respect, interactive dependency, collective responsibility, peace, friendliness, forgiveness, sharing, a sense of connectedness, altruism, understanding, respect for individual differences, knowledge of self and others, goodness, generosity and benevolence with content drawn from his or her particular religious orientation, convictions and life-view. 'Thickening' of such 'empty' value names with definite religious and life-view content will give new life to each of them and make them more useful as norms for modern life. (30) This proposal resonates with the multi-cultural idea of acknowledging individual and group differences.

Ubuntu in its traditional form cannot speak to the mind of modern 21st century urbanized and industrialized sub-continental Africans. While the values embodied in Ubuntu remain valuable and worthy, they have become virtually meaningless to modern Westemized people because of their original tribal and parochial nature and also because of their 'thin' moral content. Ubuntu could have been effective in those early far-flung small tribal communities where everyone knew everyone else, and could behave according to its tenets. This is not possible in huge, modem, globalized and industrialized communities. The updated, modernized and reconstructed version of Ubuntu proposed above will acquire new potential for influencing the lives and behavior of people, and this will have a dual impact: the precepts of Ubuntu will have acquired new moral and life-view content, and it will consequently become a more adequate sub-stratum for Ubuntugogy.


Bangura (31) circumscribes Uhuntugogy as follows:
   ... the essence of ubuntugogy is that it is imperative and
   urgent for African educators to be concerned about broader
   education as well as training and to be concerned about
   approaches to learning and teaching which are undergirded
   by humanity or fellow feeling toward others. When
   ubuntugogy is considered along with the idea of the
   socialization effects of educational environments and the
   possibilities of a reinforcement of these notions and
   contexts, the implications for an African educational process
   appear vital.

According to Bangura, (32) 'the salvation for Africans hinges upon employing indigenous African educational paradigms which can be subsumed under the rubric of ubuntugogy, which I define as the art and science of teaching and learning undergirded by humanity towards others. (33)

Bangura is correct in arguing that Western-type colonialist style education (schooling) has not served the people of the sub-continent well, and that a return to Ubuntugogy as indigenous approach to education should be considered. According to him, (34) Western systems are incompatible with the African frame of mind because the former are based on a world view that fragments African life in the sense that it tends seeing education as something separate from politics, religion, economics and the social institutions of family, group or people. This fragmentation can be blamed on a Western-type epistemology that has its roots in Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian thought. This epistemology, as implied in the previous section, is the opposite of the monism and holism of Ubuntu as an integrative world-view. (35) Western-type education is also discriminatory in the sense that it tends to give disproportionate attention to the children of influential people and to those with greater potential. It also regarded traditional African life, culture, religion and education as primitive and inferior. (36)

In Bangura's view, a return to Ubuntu is also necessary in view of the African's criticism of Western-style individualism. The individuality which Ubuntu respects, says Bangura, (37) is not the Cartesian type, i.e. a conception of individuality in terms of which the individual or the self can be conceived without necessarily conceiving or taking into account the other. The Cartesian or Western-style individuality (i.e. individualism) sees the individual as existing prior to and independently from the community or society. The rest of society is merely an add-on to a pre-existent and self-sufficient individual being. Ubuntu rejects this modernistic and atomistic individualism since it overemphasizes the seemingly solitary aspects of human existence at the expense of the communal aspects and interests. It also rejects Western-style collectivism which views society as a collection of separately existing and detached individuals or small groups. Ubuntu views the individual in terms of his or her relationship with others; individuals only exist only in and through their relationships and bonds with others.

According to Nyerere, (38) the people of Africa have to regain their former holistic and integrative attitude of mind: they took care of the community, and the community took care of them. People neither needed nor wished to exploit their fellow human beings. People have to relinquish their intellectual and social life in ivory towers that isolate them from the rest of the population living in misery and ignorance. (39) The people of Africa have no inherent African deficiency; they merely have to rediscover themselves and regain the achievements of their past which they lost as a function of their colonial history. Once this has been achieved, the people of Africa will be truly free from oppression. They will have advanced from serfdom to true freedom. (40) Bangura's plea for a return to a broader, more holistic and integrated form of education that is undergirded by humanity and fellow feeling toward others and closely connected with the idea of socialization should be lauded. A complete turn to traditional Ubuntu will however not be suitable as a basis for 21st century African education. The following arguments substantiate this position.


An unqualified return to the African past would be unrealistic

Bangura's coverage of traditional African education has two sides. On the one hand, he highlights certain aspects of informal education in village and/or clan context that will always be a feature of good education, such as motherly care, learning of good manners and the inculcation of values, respect for adults, maintaining virginity before marriage, parental accountability, community input in education, the holistic and integrated approach to education (the holistic presentation of subjects), the respect for ancestors and the deceased, the attainment of knowledge about local conditions and government, the methods of informal education, including punishment and the value of the extended family in education (in contrast with the roles of Western-type nuclear and broken families). (41) No modern-day educationist will quarrel about the perennial pedagogical importance of these aspects. On the other hand, Bangura's pleas for a return to other aspects of traditional African education do not seem quite realistic in terms of the demands of life in the 21st century.

While making the valid point, for instance, that traditional forms of education existed all over Africa before the arrival of Westerners, (42) his plea for a return to education based on ethnic and clan units that both covered the theoretical and practical fields of life, that was part of living, where everyone did not have to go to a school building to be educated since the whole process of living was a process of learning, is an example of such a not quite realistic proposal. Life in Africa in the 21st' century has become too specialized for such a romanticized return to the past.

The same goes for his point that traditional African education was as deliberate as Western forms of education, that it was aimed at achieving definite goals. The children were taught different things at different ages. The teachers included the parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors and members of the peer group. Education began roughly at the age of eight and was a life-long process. Much was learned through clan traditions and through contact between boys and girls of the same age groups. Mothers were the most important teachers. (43) Also in this case, a return to the traditional system of informal education (by parents, siblings, peers) will not be realistic. Teachers in modem societies have become subject specialists, themselves educated for three to four years at institutions of formal higher education, professionals in their own right who ply their trade in formal school settings. While informal and life-long education and the roles of mothers as educators will remain important for ensuring good education, they cannot provide in modern-day needs. Life in 21st century Africa requires more specialized education. Traditional specialists such as herbalists, medicine people, boat- and canoe-makers, basket-weavers, fishing basket-makers and so on (44) might still have a place, but their specializations have been superseded by more modern ones.

Not clear to what extent the values embodied in Ubuntugogy differ from similarly named Western-type pedagogical values

The quotation from Bangura's paper in the first paragraph of the previous section emphasizes a point made earlier in this paper. The expression 'humanity towards others' constitutes a 'thin' value. How does this value differ moral content-wise from the similarly named Western value? Also the demand that education should be linked to actual life (45) does not differ at face value from the similar pedagogical value held in the Western world. The same applies for the value of education promoting and safeguarding the inherited cultures and languages of the people. (46) The difference will only appear once the respective values have been 'thickened' with life-view / moral content.

Bangura furthermore concludes as follows with respect to traditional African education: 'Whether formally or informally, traditional education prepared the youths of a community for specific responsibilities they were going to shoulder as adults. It was education for life with all its complexities, aimed at satisfying personal needs, promoting the growth of personal talents and serving the community in which the students lived. This facilitated the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.' This conclusion raises certain questions: Does this view not also apply to the modern and specialized Western-type education currently in force in most countries of the world? In which respects does this view express the uniqueness or the superiority of African, Ubuntu education to other, more modern forms of education?

The same argument can be invoked with respect to his conclusion that 'traditional education resulted in changes in attitudes and values. Such changes were the result of learning processes and not merely from imitation and conformity. The traditional teacher was not simply teaching his students to imitate what their forefathers had done. Rather, he or she was engaged in a more complex task which involved imparting to his or her students such ideas as would lead to intellectual growth, constructive thinking, conceptualization and creativity. Graduates from traditional institutions of learning were capable of composing new songs, riddles and proverbs, etc. They could make new models of tools and military weapons. They could treat new diseases and handle effectively calamities such as earthquakes, famine, floods and other unexpected development' (47) The question is: In what sense do these aspects of Ubuntu education differ from modern Western-style education?

Possible misconceptions

Bangura seems to operate on occasion with a view of Western-type education that does not ring quite true. It is difficult to recognize Western-type education in the following statement: 'Conformist education could not have trained the traditional scholars to deal effectively with new and sometimes very challenging situations' (48) The expression 'conformist education' refers to Western-type education, a form of education reputed for its concern about advancing individualism and the interests of individuals, even to the detriment of communal interests. Bangura (49) himself in fact observed that Western-type education has made people selfish. On the other hand, traditional African education based on Ubuntu has been regarded as conformist in that it aimed at advancing the interests of the community, the in-group at the expense of the individual. (50)

Bangura furthermore concludes: "In sum, traditional African education through its examinations emphasized that students should be able to learn skills and responsibilities, and to use common sense, initiative and new concepts in dealing with new situations. Indeed, for the African, education was a process of human survival." Does this imply that Western-type education has failed in these respects? When Bangura (51) notes that Africans today live in two worlds, in other words conduct a dualistic existence, it is not clear whether he approves or not. He merely observes that 'many Africans, including the educated ones, continue to live in two worlds: the traditional and the modern-scientific. When modern hospitals fail to cure a disease, the patient goes to the traditional doctor. In fact, some people know which disease to refer to which doctor. In sum, Christianity, colonialism and Western education have failed to completely uproot the African from his or her cultural world. The people who live in these two worlds are often confused, because both worlds seem to yield appropriate fruits.' Can this dualistic way of life be regarded as consistent with the monistic, holistic and integrative nature of Ubuntu, and should it be preferred to the Western lifestyle?

It is also difficult to connect Bangura's (52) discussion of pedagogy, andragogy, ergonagy (work-related education) and heutagogy (self-determined learning) with his conclusion (53) that 'Ubuntugogy transcends pedagogy, andragogy, ergonagy and heutagogy' because 'as the art and science of learning and teaching that is undergirded by humanity towards others, ubuntugogy hinges upon the African philosophy and way of life called ubuntu'. Nothing in his discussion of pedagogy etc. suggests that pedagogy etc. would be irrelevant or contrary to Ubuntugogy. He provides no evidence that distinctions such as education aimed at immature children (pedagogy), mature people (andragogy) or the aged (gerontagogy) would be irrelevant or detrimental to Ubuntugogy. The same applies for distinguishing between work-related education (ergonagy) or self-determined learning (heutagogy). These are mere distinctions within the realm of Ubuntugogy which have to be developed theoretically, also with respect to the African context.


Bangura (54) himself showed the way forward by concluding: '...a new culture has emerged; it is a mixture of the African culture and the European culture. It is to this new culture that ubuntugogy as an African educational paradigm can respond ... positively'. Despite his criticism of Western influences and education, he does not turn a blind eye to the reality that Western culture and education have through the years made rich contributions to the world and lives of Africans. A romanticized return to Ubuntugogy based on Ubuntu-values is not viable; a return is not possible without taking into account the impact of Western pedagogical influences. Bangura is nevertheless correct in saying that a new African educational paradigm has to take root. This new paradigm, I contend, should not only embody the most positive features of Ubuntu but also those of modern Western-style education.

Ubuntugogy has to be adapted in at least two respects. It has to be based on precepts of Ubuntu that are able to withstand the test of relevance in modem, globalized and industrialized societies. Bangura (55) offers an excellent example of this: Western-style individualism has to make way for the Ubuntu way of seeing the individual, namely as person-in-relation with others in terms of the adapted versions of the horizontal and vertical spiritualities discussed above. Education on the sub-continent has to move from solitary (Western-style individualism) to solidarity, from independence to interdependence, from individuality as something apart of community to individuality in terms of community, from competition to cooperation, from market-based capitalism to communal/social capitalism, from exploitation of others to seeking benefits for them, and from seeing the other as fixed to seeing the other in his or her historical context.

The same applies for Western views of humanity in which reason tends to be overrated. (56) In brief, says Bangura, (57) 'we must revisit African teaching that takes (Ubuntu-based) epistemological, cosmological, methodological, and ubuntugogic challenges into account'. Ubuntugogy will no doubt add a typically African flavor to education. (58)

In the second place, for Africa to keep up with scientific and technological developments in the Western world, the most favorable aspects of Western-type education should be retained as warp and woof of the proposed 'new' or 'updated version' of Ubuntugogy. Since this is a vast topic in itself, only the barest outline can be given of what should be retained from Africa's Occidental heritage. African education has through the last few centuries profited from at least three contributions from the West. The first is its achievements in the fields of analytical philosophy of education and empirical studies in education. Because of these analyses, we in Africa today have a better understanding of education and its ramifications than we would have had if we had confined ourselves to the traditional holistic and integrated views of education. Western-type scientific analyses reveal to us the complex structure of education. (59) As a result, African educationists today not only understand the complexities of education based on empirical research (say, with reference to independent and dependent variables) but they are also able to quantify them because of their mastery of nominal and inferential statistics. Strides have also been made by African educationists in terms of qualitative research, an approach that of late has been revealing the intricacies and subtleties of education in narrative form. African educationists have through the years also gained insight into education and its links with politics, economics and other walks of life through their exposure to (New) Marxism, Western-type socialism, pragmatism, and critical humanism, to mention only a few of the more dominant paradigms. (60)

Of course, there is still criticism that African education (in particular higher education) remains out of sync with the continent's development aspirations, among others because of Western influences. Hountondji, (61) for instance, is of the opinion that science in a colonial context is nothing like an endogenous initiative; it develops knowledge on Africa instead of knowledge by Africans for their own collective promotion and development. The problem persists in post-colonial times. According to her, Third World scholars are keen on publishing in Western journals, which amounts to addressing, first and foremost, a Western readership. As a consequence of this extroversion, these scholars tend to address issues that are primarily of interest to the Western public. In the second place, African education has profited from the Western-style infrastructure and technological innovations. Because of its exposure to Western-style schools, classrooms, teaching technology, support services, organization and structures and financial management, pockets of schooling in Africa can today compare with the best in the West. A return to the informal structures associated with traditional education in Africa does not seem viable.

And finally, African education has also profited from Western-style "philosophy of education." For example, during the last three decades, educationists in the West have begun to understand that not the learning content but rather the learners and the learning processes seem to be most important in teaching and learning. Learners probably do not master learning materials by sitting quietly and absorbing knowledge provided to them by teachers as 'knowledge managers'. Learners learn best through active, constructive and self-steered processes through which each of them constructs internal knowledge representations that embody their personal interpretations of the learning experiences. These representations change constantly based on the different meanings that people attach to their experiences. (62) While the theory of constructivism in education might seem 'new' to Westerners, it can arguably be seen as a recognition of traditional African-style teaching and learning. However, it is scholars from the West who succeeded in attaching a nametag to it and whose analyses help us understand it better.

We are also indebted to Western-style "philosophy of science" for the depth of our insight into education today. We would have been much poorer as African educators and scholars if we had not been exposed to (Platonic and Hegelian) idealism, (Kantian) rationalism, (Heideggerian and Kirkegaardian) existentialism and phenomenology, intuitionism, formalism and structuralism (in Mathematics, for instance) and many other views of the human being, reality, knowledge and education that have come to us from the West. Western-type, scholars have developed theory and model building to a fine art, and African scholarship would have been poorer without it. (63)


Education in 21st century sub-Saharan Africa will benefit by a qualified return to a more traditional form of education based on the precepts of Ubuntu. However, we Africans have developed too far down the road to becoming modern, globalized, industrialized and urbanized communities for an unqualified and romanticized return to traditional African-style education based on the original Ubuntu ontology, anthropology, epistemology and education. The thinking of most modern African educators and educationists has already become so fused with Western-style theory of education, its structures and ramifications that an unqualified return seems inconceivable.

While a return to traditional African-style education (Ubuntugogy) should indeed be contemplated because of the inherent strength of the values embedded in Ubuntu as its underlying philosophy of life, Ubuntu should be 'updated' and filled with new moral and life view content for purposes of life in the 21st century. The same applies for Ubuntugogy. A qualified return to traditional African-style education will favor pedagogical progress on the continent. While holding on to the basic precepts of Ubuntu, we have to creatively blend them with the educational contributions of the Western world.


(1.) J. Malala. "The African Century Fails to Dawn." Sunday Times, September 13, 2002, p. 16.

(2.) Y. Hayward. "Pupils are Out of Control, say Desperate Teachers." Weekend Post, October 21, 2006, p. 2; S. Dimbaza. "Figures for Violent Crime Among Kids Alarming." Weekend Post, April 7, 2007, p. 2.

(3.) S. Swartz. "A Long Walk to Citizenship: Morality, Justice and Faith in the Aftermath of Apartheid." Journal of Moral Education, 35(4): December 2006, p. 555.

(4.) Also see A. Thomson. "SA Not Safe Place, Despite Crime Drop". The Herald, September 22, 2004, p. 11; M. Seloane. "Police Still in Quandary as Crime Wave Carries On." The Herald, July, 2006, pp. 7, 4; M. Munnik. "Voorstelle Teen Geweld by Skole Word Ingewag. (Proposals awaited for combating violence in schools.) Die Burger, November 12, 2006, p. 5; B. Enoch. "School Violence Reflection of Society, Not Poor Curriculum." The Herald, August 7, 2006, p. 8; D. Olojede. "This is How the Rot Begins." Sunday Times, November 5, 2006, p. 41.

(5.) I.J. Oosthuizen, J.P. Rossouw, C.J. Russo, J.L. Van der Walt, and C.C. Wolhuter. Perspectives on Learner Conduct. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Learner Discipline. Potchefstroom, South Africa, April 2-4, 2007.

(6.) W. Van Binsbergen. "Ubuntu and the Globalisation of Southern African Thought and Society" [Electronic Version]. Retrieved 23 July 2008 from 2002; J.M. Nyasani. The Ontological Significance of 'I' and 'We' in African Philosophy. Homepage IFK--Intercultural Communication. Galerie Inter Homepage. Accessed on 23 July, 2008, p. 2.

(7.) S. Masondo, S. De Jager, T. Twidle, and C. Dipnall. "Crime Seen as the Biggest Threat to Freedom in SA." The Herald, April 27, 2007, p. 3; also see B. Pityana. "The Renewal of African Moral Values" in W.M. Makgoba, (ed.) African Renaissance. (Cape Town: Mafube / Tafelberg, 1999), pp. 130-140.

(8.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." Journal of Third Worm Studies 2005, 22(2), pp. 13-53.

(9.) W. Van Binsbergen. "Ubuntu and the Globalisation of Southern African Thought and Society," p. 11.

(10.) M.O. Eze. "Ubuntu: A Communitarian Response to Liberal Individual Liberalism." Unpublished dissertation. Pretoria: University of Pretoria, 2005, p. 4.

(11.) B. Pityana. "The Renewal of African Moral Values," p. 138.

(12.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 32.

(13.) J.M. Nyasani. The Ontological Significance of 'I' and 'We' in African Philosophy, p. 4.

(14.) B.J. Vander Walt. Afrocentric or Eurocentric? (Potchefstroom: IRS), 1997, pp. 34-35.

(15.) L. Nyirongo. The Gods of Africa or the God of the Bible? (Potchefstroom: IRS, 1997), p. 61.

(16.) B. Pityana. "The Renewal of African Moral Values," p. 4.

(17.) R. Gaylard. 'Welcome to the World of our Humanity': (African) Humanism, Ubuntu and Black South African writing. JLS/TLW, 2004, 20(3/4), p. 271.

(18.) W. Van Binsbergen. "Ubuntu and the Globalisation of Southern African Thought and Society," p. 6.

(19.) Ibid. This treatment of the topic of human rights may be somewhat abstract. In this era of neo-liberal hegemony, there is always the danger of human rights being subordinated to the demands of the market. South Africa is a case in point. There is much that could be done to improve the lives of many South Africans inspired by the concept of human rights (as embodied in Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution, 1996) but doing so might scare foreign investors away. Policies that promote social spending, human dignity and Black economic empowerment are most likely to be seen by global capital as regulatory, restrictive and likely to increase the cost of operating business and taxes. So, while at the philosophical level the idea of human rights can be commended, it becomes difficult at the implementation level on the ground.

It can also be argued along the line of Confucius' thinking that the autonomous individual as conceptualized in the West is rather an abstract and under-socialized neo-classical entity. This is a result of the project of the enlightenment and modernity which in spite of its contributions to Western development remains problematic and at the root of many of our problems today. A real human being is only human among others by being embedded in a web of relationships. The concept of human rights while well intentioned remains susceptible to subversion by theories such as Utilitarianism and Nozick's theory of Justice as entitlement (Libertarianism).Again, while at a conceptual and philosophical level the notion of human rights can be supported, it remains a problem at the implementation level.

(20.) T. Mautner. Dictionary of Philosophy. (London: Penguin, 2000) p., 101.

(21.) Y. Turaki. Christianity and African Gods. (Potchefstroom: IRS, 1999), p. 183.

(22.) J.M. Nyasani. The Ontological Significance of 'I' and 'We' in African Philosophy, p. 7.

(23.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 19.

(24.) Y. Turaki. Christianity and African Gods, p. 183.

(25.) Religion is mentioned in passing here. However, it should be recognized that throughout history, religion has been a source of conflict arising from different orientations and world views. Some religions such as Christianity and Islam are expansionist, seeking to convert others to their beliefs. Others, like African Traditional Religion, are not. How to reconcile these differences which underlie religion-based conflict and the tenets of ubuntugogy which call for peaceful co-existence is an important issue in view of the fact that religion is fundamental to human existence sociologically (see M. Shermer, The Science of Good and Evil, (New York: Henry Holt and Company), p. 7, but cannot be addressed here. Also see I. Buruma, and A. Margalit, Occidentalism, A Short History of Anti-Westernism, 2005 for a discussion of confrontations between Oriental and Occidental religious stances.

(26.) S. Swartz. "A Long Walk to Citizenship: Morality, Justice and Faith in the Aftermath of Apartheid," pp. 556-565.

(27.) G. Zecha. "Opening the Road to Values Education" in D.N. Aspin, and J.D. Chapman. Values Education and Lifelong Learning. Principles, Policies, Programmes. (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), passim.

(28.) J.H. Stair. "Ubuntu for Africa: A Christian Interpretation" in B.J. Van der Walt, (ed.) Ubuntu in a Christiain Perspective. (Potchefstroom: IRS, 1999), p. 24.

(29.) S. Swartz. "A Long Walk to Citizenship: Morality, Justice and Faith in the Aftermath of Apartheid," p. 556.

(30.) J.H. Smit. "Ubuntu for Africa: A Christian Interpretation," p. 24; M. Hammersley. "Philosophy's Contribution to Social Science Research on Education." Journal of Philosophy of Education 2006, 40(2), pp. 279-280.

(31.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy. An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 20.

(32.) Ibid., p. 13.

(33.) Some readers might argue that my argument here does little in terms of how these ideas could be practically implemented. The argument as it now stands is indeed a contribution in the field of Philosophy of Education, and those critics would be correct in saying that it does not enter into discussions about practical implementation. However, to discuss practical implementation would require the addition of a substantial section in which all the practical implications and ramifications of what Bangura and I said about ubuntugogy will have to be outlined. To do so is beyond the scope of this paper. It would be worthwhile however for experts in the fields of, for instance, curriculum and planning or educational administration to explore the practical implications of these arguments.

(34.) Ibid., p. 19.

(35.) Ibid., p. 19 et seq. for a detailed outline of Ubuntu-precepts.

(36.) Ibid., p. 25.

(37.) Ibid., p. 33.

(38.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 14.

(39.) Price-Mars, quoted by A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 16.

(40.) Woodson, quoted by A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy. An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." p. 17.

(41.) A.K. Bangura. "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy and Heutagogy." pp. 21, 22, 23 et seq.

(42.) Ibid., p. 20.

(43.) Ibid., p. 21.

(44.) Ibid., p. 22.

(45.) Ibid., pp. 13-14.

(46.) Ibid., pp. 14-15.

(47.) Ibid.

(48.) Ibid.

(49.) Ibid.

(50.) J.M. Nyasani. The Ontological Significance of 'I' and 'We' in African Philosophy, p. 1.

(51.) Ibid., p. 25.

(52.) Ibid., p. 25 et seq.

(53.) Ibid., p. 31.

(54.) Ibid., p. 25.

(55.) Ibid., p. 33.

(56.) Ibid., p. 35.

(57.) Ibid., p. 40.

(58.) Ibid., p. 44.

(59.) Ex, C Opvoeding, wat kun je? (Education, what can you do?), (Amsterdam: Wereldbibliotheek, 2007), p. 9.

(60.) See H-H Kruger. Einfuhrung in Theorien und Methoden der Erziehungswissenschaft. (Introduction to Theories and Methods of Education.) (Opladen: Barbara Budrich, 2006), pp. 9-14 for an overview.

(61.) P.J. Hountondji. "Knowledge Appropriation in a Post-Colonial Context' in C.A.O. Hoppers. Indigenous Knowledge and the Integration of Knowledge Systems. (Claremont: New Africa Books, 2002), pp. 30-37.

(62.) N. Lagerweij and J. Lagerweij-Voogt. Andetw kijken. (Looking at things differently.) (Antwerp: Garant, 2005), p. 352.

(63.) This line of argumentation might create the impression that I accept the contributions of Western philosophers as entirely beneficial. These contributions also have a downside, however. The tendency to view the contributions of the West as largely positive can be ascribed to the culture hegemony that we have been subjected to for several centuries now. All of us, including those of us in Africa, have become accustomed to understanding the world in terms of Western conceptual categories. Some philosophers and sociologists of science have however begun to problematize the context in which these categories were generated (see, for instance, S. Fuller, Philosophy of Science and its Discontents, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1993.)

Much as Plato made a contribution to Western theoretical thought, for instance, he and his followers' philosophies (the neo-Platonists) have led Christians to assume that understanding of God should be rooted in Platonism. This assumption resulted in the belief (among, for instance, African Christian missionaries) that understanding of the God of the Bible should be mediated by Platonism, which is a dualistic pagan philosophy in itself. It is a fact that Ancient Greeks helped shape theoretical and religious thinking in the West, but to convert this historical fact into a normative necessity in the sense that for an African to understand God and the world he or she should apply pagan conceptual categories is to support and promote cultural hegemony at a sophisticated and subtle level.

Similar arguments can be put forward with respect to education and the status of women. According to Plato's Republic, which is speculative rather than a concrete historical analysis, education should be based on function and aptitude, but how people discover their talents and aptitude is not a philosophical question. Plato himself enjoyed ample free time to develop himself because most work was done by slaves. Plato, Aristotle and Hesiod (to mention only three ancient Greek philosophers) also denied women equal rights with men. Several centuries later, Hegel in his philosophy of history dehumanized Blacks in saying that he did not even recognize the humanity of Africans as according to him they have not developed historical consciousness. They are living in slumber, having not yet awoken to human civilization. It is therefore not even worthwhile to reflect on them.

Kant's concept of dare to reason which is a prerequisite for freedom can be construed as a denial to women of equal capacity to do the same. Hegel critiques him by averring that all his ideas are theoretical and formalist because they remain at a high level of abstraction and fail to deal with reality.

It is clear from these historical examples from Western philosophy that the fundamental categories that inform social science discourse are rooted in the ideas of people whose thinking was drenched in various forms of Eurocentric bias such as androcentrism Such forms of Eurocentrism has repeatedly mutated itself but it has never totally disappeared. These examples highlight the need for caution. While we have to appreciate the contributions of the Western world we have to constantly guard against conceptual categories that might imprison our minds, especially at the religious level. We should guard against elevating Western (including ancient Greek) paganism to a sacred status while condemning other forms of paganism. Power/conflict theory can be key to understanding hegemony-building strategies. According to some analysts, there is usually someone or some group who are thought to have power and to use it for some purpose. There is somehow power in the system or in the culture that we inherited, and that power controls us, sometimes (as shown above) in deleterious ways R. Hardin, Power. In: T. Honderich. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 746.

By Johannes L van der Walt *

* Johannes L van der Walt is a Professor of Education at the Faculty of Education Sciences Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Association of Third World Studies, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:OTHER PAPERS
Author:van der Walt, Johannes L.
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Sep 22, 2010
Previous Article:The judiciary in governance in the Gambia: the quest for autonomy under the second republic.
Next Article:A case of a mother tongue and another mother tongue in school: efforts at revitalization of Olusuba language of Kenya.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters