Understanding Ubuntu and its contribution to social work education in Africa and other regions of the world

Publication Name

Social Work Education


The overarching philosophy of Black people of Africa is known by different names but Ubuntu is the most popular name. Ubuntu’s origin is attributable to Black Africans in all regions of the continent—North, West, Central, East and South. Different communities may emphasize its different aspects but they are common knowledges, values and practices. The article begins with a discussion of the philosophy of Ubuntu and its application at the micro (individual and family), meso (communal), macro (societal, environmental and spiritual) levels. The roles of Ubuntu in social work education are then discussed with a focus on Africa. These roles are offering a philosophical foundation; being a source of ethics and values; being a source of knowledge including theories; offering a history of African social work; shaping social work methods; building the confidence of educators, learners and communities; shaping research; being a pedagogical approach; enriching fieldwork education; and indigenizing and decolonizing. However, there are several impediments to the full use of Ubuntu, including the colonial history of the profession, changes to African society and lack of Ubuntu-inspired educational resources. The authors recommend continuous development and use of educational resources that are created with Ubuntu philosophy as a guiding principle.

Open Access Status

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