Childhood should be a time when children are carefree and without any responsibilities or worries. This however, is not the case in all children, particularly children who are shy, anxious or socially withdrawn from their new surroundings, people and new social situations. This therefore does not allow them to feel comfortable enough to interact and or make new friends easily.
With the recent addition to my class of one such learner I felt compelled to try and assist with this new learners feeling of being isolated and alone in a new environment. To ensure this new learner did not feel singled out or further disadvantaged, I used the African philosophy concept of “Caring Communities” as a form of welcoming and embracing this shy and anxious learner into our group. Through the love and caring shown to all members of our group or class community, no one member need ever feel alone, left out of an activity or interacting without at least one friend at a time. This means we are all embracing our other community members, treating them equally and treating them as we want to be treated. This creates social security or a safe sense of community for all and ensures our new learner is feeling less socially awkward, isolated and alone.
This sense of community is one of the fundamental corner stone’s of African philosophy and one of the greatest differences with the western philosophy. It is a spoken tradition where great emphasises is placed “for the good of the community” rather than one individual person and is marked by communalism and communal interdependence in many spheres of community life. African philosophy is a natural response to the strife, dilemmas and obstacles faced by Africa, together with the elimination and repudiation of colonisation and domination by the Western world. African philosophy has captivated the Western world, who incorporated the various facets into their own New Age Movement.
Included in African philosophy is the extensive and all-embracing principle of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is the part of African philosophy that contributes and provides us with insight into understanding our own lives in relation to the world around us. Ubuntu is the capacity to express compassion, dignity, harmony and humanity in the best interest of our community above self-interest. The community is therefore the core or essence of Ubuntu. There exists a common bond or interconnectedness between all humans and through shared synergy and intercommunication we are able to recognise, identify and discover our own human qualities of humanness, trustworthiness, goodness, respect and kindness and then attest to them in others around us. It gives human beings their humanity, and we are affirming our humanity when acknowledging that of others. Ubuntu embodies the concept of mutual understanding and the appreciation of differences in humans; respect others if you are to respect yourself.
Ubuntu is therefore an important new concept introduced to my group or community of learners who need to ensure that they actively adopt these African philosophy principles within their everyday lives. By adopting these principles all members of our group or community, including the new learner, will enjoy a spirit of mutual support, understanding and caring for each other’s well-being. The learners will come to understand that we must treat each other with dignity, respect, compassion, humaneness, humbleness and share a brotherly/sisterly love within our community or group. That all members of our group or community need to be included and no person ever isolated, therefore we must ensure that our new community member, learner, is invited and accepted within our community or group thereby encapsulating and embracing the principle of Ubuntu and promoting the African identity and a participatory group or community. Through African philosophy we have come to teach our young group or young community about our African identity and promoting cultural unity through our diversity. By putting into practice the fundamentals of African philosophy we are ensuring all our learners come to know compassion, kindness, selflessness and respect at school, making it a place of effective learning and teaching within a safe environment with happy school community members.
1.Higgs, P & Smith, J. 2000. Rethinking our world. Cape Town: Juta.