Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Ubuntugogy for the 21st Century

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Ubuntugogy for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

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. …

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