Ubuntu in South Africa: Hopes and disappointments – a pedagogical perspective





Crime, Education, Human dignity, Jurisprudence, South African Constitution, Ubuntugogy, Ubuntu


The indigenous sub-Saharan African philosophy of ubuntu that comes down to the expression: “I am a human being because of being with other human beings”, developed over centuries. This philosophy, embodying the notion of deep respect for all human beings, is rooted in a humane inclination towards kindness and sound relationships among all people. Before its adoption as a principle in the South African Interim Constitution of 1993, ubuntu had never been referred to, or codified in any statutory format. Since then, however, although not mentioned in the final Constitution of 1996, the humane undertones of the ubuntu philosophy have often surfaced in South African jurisprudence, particularly in cases involving citizens’ Constitutional right to human dignity (section 10). This paper examines the phenomenon that the actual modern-day practical, day-to-day life in South Africa does not seem to attest to application of the ubuntu ideal of maintaining and improving the human condition. After examining a number of possible reasons for this phenomenon, ubuntugogy is presented as a possible remedy for this condition. This paper reports on an interdisciplinary analysis involving philosophical, societal, anthropological, legal and pedagogical perspectives. A mixed method research methodology in the form of a social science based interpretive-constructivist qualitative approach combined with a legal approach was followed.


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Author Biography

Prof Izak Oosthuizen, North-West University, South Africa

Izak Oosthuizen served for 18 years as a high school teacher in Pretoria, South Africa, and subsequently as a lecturer at the College for Further Education. In 1988, he became Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education of the former PU for CHE, and in 1999 was promoted to a full professorship in Education Law. In 2011, he was appointed as Research Professor and later as Extraordinary Professor in the Faculty of Education of the North-West University. He currently serves as a Research Fellow in this Faculty. He has been the editor, co-editor and author of more than 45 books and of 75 scholarly articles. 42 Master’s and Doctor’s degree students completed their studies under his guidance.  His ORCiD is: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1193-4699.


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How to Cite

van der Walt, J. (Hannes), & Oosthuizen, I. J. (2021). Ubuntu in South Africa: Hopes and disappointments – a pedagogical perspective. Perspectives in Education, 39(4), 89-103. https://doi.org/10.18820/2519593X/pie.v39.i4.7



Research articles