Original Research

Intersection of Ubuntu pedagogy and social justice: Transforming South African higher education

Nomalungelo I. Ngubane, Manyane J. Makua
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 6 | a113 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v6i0.113 | © 2021 Nomalungelo I. Ngubane, Manyane Makua | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 February 2021 | Published: 30 June 2021

About the author(s)

Nomalungelo I. Ngubane, Medical School, Faculty of Health Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Manyane J. Makua, Teaching and Learning Development Centre, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


Background: Universities, globally, and in South Africa, continue to be confronted with demands for transformation, humanisation of pedagogical practices and to embrace social justice.

Aim: In this article, we bring to the surface possibilities of Ubuntu pedagogy within a social justice framework. We intersect Collective Fingers Theory and Social Justice Theory to propose the notion of Ubuntu pedagogy, which draws from African philosophy of Ubuntu. We argue that Ubuntu pedagogy provides an alternation to the current pedagogies that draw from European theories for teaching and learning in the South African higher education context. We put forward that, Ubuntu pedagogy, when embraced with understanding and dignity it deserves, has the potential, firstly, of initiating students from other cultures other than African cultures to the values of Ubuntu and, secondly, of reconnecting students with their values and cultures, but it has a capacity to cultivate social justice values of equity, recognition and fair participation amongst students from diverse social backgrounds.

Setting: South African Higher Education.

Methodology: The authors draw from literature to position the article within Ubuntu philosophical framework and social justice lenses. Themes emerging from literature are as follows: Intersection of Ubuntu philosophy and social justice, Ubuntu pedagogy and transformation in higher education and guiding principles for possible implementation of Ubuntu pedagogy.

Results: At the intersection of Ubuntu pedagogy and social justice, classroom practices are designed to respond to students’ cultural competencies and to embrace all linguistic repertoires that students bring to the classroom for learning. Students are treated equally and with dignity and respect regardless of their social backgrounds.

Conclusion: We argue that higher education classrooms in post-apartheid South Africa should enable equal access, equity and inclusivity for all students. We therefore recommend Ubuntu pedagogy as a culturally and socially just pedagogy for transformative higher education classrooms. This article contributes to the continuing dialogues about transformative pedagogies, decolonisation and social justice in South African higher education.


Ubuntu philosophy; Ubuntu pedagogy; social justice; Collective Fingers Theory; epistemic violence; epistemic freedom


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