Samkange's theory of Ubuntu and its contribution to a decolonised social work pedagogy



Publication Details

Mugumbate, J. (2020). Samkange's theory of Ubuntu and its contribution to a decolonised social work pedagogy. In C. Morley, P. Ablett, C. Noble & S. Cowden (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Critical Pedagogies for Social Work (pp. 412-423). London, United Kingdom: Routledge.


2020 selection and editorial matter, Christine Morley, Phillip Ablett, Carolyn Noble, and Stephen Cowden. Western-oriented social work that emphasises the individual and remedial approach has not been very effective in Africa. Hence, there is a need for community as an indigenous guiding principle, and developmental approach as a practice framework. This resonates with the indigenous philosophy of Ubuntu that the educationist and politician Stanlake Samkange argued for. In this chapter, Ubuntu theory has been used as a case study to show how African philosophies can help in efforts to decolonise social work pedagogy and practice. Samkange did not invent Ubuntu because it had long existed as orature (oral literature). In tandem with orature, other African writers and public figures, Samkange viewed Ubuntu as representing unhu/untu (respect-guided individual), ukama (family), ujamaa or harambee (communalism) and uhuru (independent, humane and just society). These views impact learning and practice in several ways, including the need for respectful relationships between all those involved; the need for cooperative learning; and the need for social justice. Samkange further argued that through colonialism Black Africans were forced to adopt foreign philosophies, and their learners were taught that their ancestors had no philosophy of their own. By writing about Ubuntu, his main argument was that Africans needed to learn, write and practise their own philosophies.

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