International Pedagogies: Ubuntu & Ukama

Decorative: World map centering Africa, backlighting the continent


A. "What Happens When You Put African Philosophies at the Centre of Learning" (post) surveys "[w]hat happens when African philosophies and practices are placed at the centre of learning?"

  • "How can teachers and students on the [African] continent use the concepts of ubuntu (human interdependence) and ukama (relationality) to come up with homegrown solutions for societal and educational concerns?"
  • The article outlines "lessons [that] could be valuable to anyone who wants to centre African philosophies in a MOOC or similar course" based on "an example of how the philosophies of ubuntu and ukama were applied in the Teaching for Change MOOC." 

B. Some Key Observations

1. Ubuntu

  • "Students were encouraged to share their views or claims about knowledge, education, schooling, teaching and learning in their own contexts ... views [which] were in agreement or clashed with their classmates’."
  • "Practising ubuntu demanded that they then articulate their willingness to engage with one another in an atmosphere of openness without insulting or discrediting another’s point of view."
  • "This encouraged people to remain dignified and respectful towards one another in any educational encounter."
  • "They were asked to listen attentively to different and even contending points of view ... [and] encouraged to offer points of view that clarified existing views."

2. Ukama

  • "Then, applying the theory of ukama, students were asked to see themselves in an ongoing and relational conversation with one another without prematurely judging another’s point of view as irrelevant."
  • "They considered others’ views without rushing to judgement."
  • "Students ... were taught to not only share their views and stories (and stories, of course, play a large role on a continent with a rich oral history), but to offer reasons for these views."

3. Outcomes

  • "Participants engaged collectively, drew on their own existing thoughts about African education and learned from others."
  • "This approach to learning is not in one direction as if teachers have the sole authority to give an account of reasons."
  • "Students also have a voice as they assume responsibility for their claims."
  • "Students’ voices are at the fulcrum of democratic education which is necessary for assisting them in critically reflecting on their own social, cultural and economic contexts."

C. See also Lesley Le Grange (2012) Ubuntu, ukama, environment and moral education, Journal of Moral Education, 41:3, 329-340, DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2012.691631

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