Reconceptualizing ubuntu as inclusion in African higher education : towards equalization of voice

Shanyanana, Rachel Ndinelao ; Waghid, Yusef (2016)

CITATION: Shanyanana, R. N. & Waghid, Y. 2016. Reconceptualizing ubuntu as inclusion in African higher education : towards equalization of voice. 4(4):104–120.

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Inclusionary higher educational practices have become a topical issue in recent debates on the Africa continent. While the idea of inclusion in communal practices is embodied in the notion of Ubuntu in Africa, a number of silences and inconsistencies still remain in the way the marginalized groups (the poor, people with disabilities, women, homosexuals and so forth) are treated in African higher education (AHE). The dilemmas implicit in the idea of inclusion in contemporary higher education institutions (HEIs) in Africa restrict the marginalized group’s voices, thereby treating them as unequal members of the assumed equal society. This suggests that an African conception of Ubuntu in its current form may not bring about adequate transformation to the African higher education system. The underlying assumption in the existing conception of Ubuntu as a communal practice ‒ more specifically knowledge culture ‒ of seeing humanity in others provides sufficient grounds for the inclusion of all members of society. Employing Young’s (2000) interpretation of inclusion as exclusion, Ubuntu in dominant and current thinking and practices can be inclusive and exclusive simultaneously. The article proposes to re-examine the potentiality of an African philosophy of Ubuntu as a way of curtailing exclusionary practices in higher education (HE). As long as HE in Africa embraces Ubuntu as inclusion, a substantive form of inclusion may not be engendered. The article makes its argument using Rancière’s perspective of “equalization of voice.” By arguing for an Ubuntu of inclusion as voice, we make a cogent defense for thinking differently about African people’s communal practices, thus looking differently at their conception of a knowledge culture.

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