A feminist critique of ubuntu : implications for citizenship education in Zimbabwe

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH SUMMARY : In 2015 the government of Zimbabwe announced the rollout of a new education policy that represented a curriculum overhaul at the primary and secondary school level. At the centre of this policy was the explicit introduction of ubuntu as a philosophy of education in Zimbabwe. This move took a cultural artefact and what was, until that time, an academic aspiration into policy. The move also represented the first time in Zimbabwe’s education history that an indigenous artefact would sit at the centre of mass education. About the same time, I was working for a girls’ education organisation in Bulawayo, where we were experiencing challenges of extending our feminist ideologies. The community would often ask us “but what about our culture, what about ubuntu?”. Policy changes at the national level and tension at a professional level sparked the commencement of this study and its central concern: bringing ubuntu into conversation with feminism. The central question guiding the study is: what is the feminist critique of ubuntu, and what are the implications of this critical assessment for citizenship education in Zimbabwe? In response, I unpack the notion of ubuntu in its multiple interpretations as an ethic, a philosophy, a notion enfolded in power and a framework of encounter. I use language as a vehicle of critique to read through the various interpretations. In researching an artefact like ubuntu in a context like Zimbabwe, the study employs a research orientation that is able to contend with knowledge that is not always part of the known archive, what Mbembe (2002) calls the archivable. The study is, therefore, guided by a decolonial-feminist research paradigm. The study is largely conceptual but supported by an empirical element in the form of narratives from eight female educators from Bulawayo. Being feminist in orientation, the study places the female voice at the centre of analysis; hence the educators’ conceptions of ubuntu in and out of the classroom add weight to the feminist critique of ubuntu. I use the power of stories and re-storying throughout the study but more so in chapter 5 to analyse and present the data from interviews conducted with the female educators. My original contribution to knowledge comes in the form of a new interpretation of ubuntu. I advance another interpretation of ubuntu to subvert the inconsistencies and shortfalls of interpretations that already fill academic literature. I argue for a view of ubuntu as a social framework that mediates the encounter with the other permitting the currency of power between encountering bodies and geared towards the establishment of relationship – ukama/ubuhlobo. The decolonial feminist critique of ubuntu sees an engendering risk in a narrow conception of ubuntu as a foundation of morality and by extension, moral education. The critique found opportunities for feminist solidarity in conceptions of ubuntu as a philosophy of interrelatedness. The interpretation of ubuntu as a framework of encounter advanced in the study gives feminist scholarship in education ways to harness the good from ubuntu, to interrogate the complex encounters and resist the toxic elements of pedagogical encounters beyond the surface of performative acts by touching on the conditions that sustain and produce them. The feminist critique of ubuntu demonstrated that there is a challenge in dislodging male-centred tendencies and privileges when ubuntu is prescribed narrowly (or neutrally as is the case in the new Zimbabwean policy) as a series of observable ethics. The critique evidenced the point that the moral in education is often enacted along gendered and engendering lines, hence reproducing set binaries rather than challenging them. An expanded interpretation of ubuntu as a framework of encounter informed by a social script or isintu opens an opportunity to re-write the social script along the lines of a feminist ethics of care.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Geen opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
Education and state -- Zimbabwe, Ubuntu (Philosophy) -- Zimbabwe, Feminism and education -- Zimbabwe, Citizenship -- Study and teaching -- Zimbabwe, UCTD