Educating for Ubuntu/Botho: Lessons from Basotho Indigenous Education


This article reflects on shocking and horrifying incidents of moral indiscretion that have become commonplace in South Africa. The aim is to understand why human beings would carry out such shocking and horrific acts on fellow human beings. The article draws on Dismas Masolo’s book Self and Community in a Changing World to unpack the notion of personhood. It draws lessens on Basotho indigenous education. The choice of Basotho indigenous education is premised on the assumption that it is the author’s own native knowledge with which he is most familiar, and about which he can write uninhibitedly.

Share and Cite:

Letseka, M. (2013). Educating for Ubuntu/Botho: Lessons from Basotho Indigenous Education. Open Journal of Philosophy, 3, 337-344. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2013.32051.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abbey, R., & Taylor, C. (1996). Communitarianism, Taylor-made: An interview with Charles Taylor. Australian Quarterly, 68, 1-10. doi:10.2307/20634713
[2] Adeyemi, M. B., & Adeyinka, A. A. (2003). The principles and content of African traditional education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 35, 425-440. doi:10.1111/1469-5812.00039
[3] Adeyemi, M. B., & Adeyinka, A. A. (2002). Some key issues in African traditional education. McGill Journal of Education, 37, 223-240.
[4] Adeyinka, A. A., & Ndwapi, G. (2002). Education and morality in Africa. Pastoral Care in Education: An International Journal of Personal, Social and Emotional Development, 20, 17-23. doi:10.1111/1468-0122.00225
[5] Adeyinka, A. A. (2000). Basic concepts in education: the issues at stake. In H. J. Msango, E. C. Mumba, & A. L. Sikwibele (Eds.), Selected topics in philosophy and education. Lusaka: University of Zambia Press.
[6] Adeyinka, A. A. (1993). Crisis in Nigerian education: The issues at stake. Nigerian Journal of Educational Foundations, 4, 1-17.
[7] Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 193-209. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr0303_3
[8] Bessler, J. D. (2008). In the spirit of ubuntu: Enforcing the rights of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, 31, 33113.
[9] Broodryk, J. (2002). Ubuntu: Life lessons from Africa. Pretoria: Ubuntu School of Philosophy.
[10] Callan, E. (1997). Creating citizens: Political education and liberal democracy. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
[11] Coplan, D. B. (1993). History is eaten whole: consuming tropes in Sesotho auriture. History and Theory, 32, 80-104. doi:10.2307/2505633
[12] Crysdale, C. S. W. (1987). From “is” to “ought”: Kohlberg, Lonergan, and method in the human sciences. Laval Théologique et Philosophique, 43, 91-107.
[13] Dlamini, P. (2011). Muti killer gets life. Sowetan, 29 November 2011.
[14] Enslin, P., & Horsthemke, K. (2004). Can ubuntu provide a model for citizenship education in African democracies? Comparative Education, 40, 545-558. doi:10.1080/0305006042000284538
[15] Futhwa, F. (2011). Setho: Afrikan thought and belief system. Alberton: Nalane ka Fexekile Futhwa.
[16] Gibson, J. L., & Gouws, A. (2005). Overcoming intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in democratic persuasion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[17] Gitlin, T. (2006). The Intellectuals and the Flag. Columbia University Press: New York.
[18] Greenspan, P. (2007). Practical reasons and moral ought. In R. ShaferLandau (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaethics (Volume II, pp. 171-194), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[19] Hosken, G. (2011). Riddle as young mom is gunned down by motorcyclists. The Star, 9 November 2011.
[20] Kant, I. (2005). The moral law: Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals. Abington: Routledge Classics.
[21] Kingsley, O. (2010). African traditional education: A viable alternative for peace building process in modern Africa. Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, 2, 136-159.
[22] Letseka, M. (2012). In defense of ubuntu. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 31, 47-60. doi:10.1007/s11217-011-9267-2
[23] Letseka, M. (2000). African philosophy and educational discourse. In P. Higgs, N. C. G. Vakalisa, T. V. Mda, & N. T. Assie-Lumumba (Eds.), African voices in education (pp. 179-193). Cape Town: Juta.
[24] Levy, N. (2004). What makes us moral: Crossing the boundaries of biology. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
[25] Louw, D. J. (2006). The African concept of ubuntu and restorative justice. In D. Sullivan, & L. Tifft (Eds.), Handbook of restorative justice: A global perspective. New York: Routledge.
[26] MacIntyre, A. (1959). Hume on “is” and “ought”. The Philosophical Review, 68, 451-568. doi:10.2307/2182491
[27] McCauley, R. (2012). Socializing our boys to be better men. The Star, 7 May 2012.
[28] Maharasoa, M. M. A., & Maharasoa, M. B. (2004). Men’s initiation school as a form of higher education within the Basotho indigenous knowledge system. South African Journal of Higher Education, 18, 106-114.
[29] Mapesela, M. L. E. (2004). The Basotho indigenous knowledge (IK): Do we understand it well enough to employ it as a tool in Higher Education. South African Journal of Higher Education, 18, 316-326.
[30] Marah, J. K. (2006). The virtues and challenges in traditional African education. Journal of Pan African Studies, 1, 15-24.
[31] Masolo, D. A. (2010). Self and community in a changing world. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
[32] Masolo, D. A. (2004). Reason and culture: Debating the foundations of morals in a pluralist world. Diogenes, 51, 19-31. doi:10.1177/0392192104044271
[33] Masolo, D. A. (2003). Philosophy and indigenous knowledge: An African perspective. Africa Today, 50, 21-38. doi:10.1353/at.2004.0015
[34] Matsela, Z. A. (1990). Bochaba ba Basotho. Mazenod: Mazenod Publishers.
[35] Matsela, Z. A. (1979). The indigenous education of the Basotho and its implications for educational development in Lesotho. Unpublished Ed.D Thesis, Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts.
[36] Marx, C. (2002). Ubu and ubuntu: On the dialectics of apartheid and nation building. Politikon, 29, 49-69. doi:10.1080/02589340220149434
[37] Menkiti, I. A. (2004). On the normative conception of a person. In K. Wiredu (Ed.), A companion to African philosophy (pp. 324-331). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
[38] Menkiti, I. A. (1984). Person and community in African traditional thought. In R. A. Wright (Ed.), African philosophy: An introduction (3rd ed., pp. 171-181). New York: University Press of America.
[39] Metz, T. (2011). An African theory of dignity and a relational conception of poverty. In J. W. de Cruchy (Ed.), The humanist imperative in South Africa (pp. 233-242). Stellenbosch: Sun Press.
[40] Metz, T. (2007). Towards an African moral theory. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 15, 321-341. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9760.2007.00280.x
[41] Metz, T., & Gaie, J. B. R. (2010). The African ethic of Ubuntu/Botho: Implications for research on morality. Journal of Moral Education, 39, 273-290. doi:10.1080/03057240.2010.497609
[42] Mkamba, L. (2012). No bail for mob killing suspects. Pretoria News, 27 November.
[43] Mokgoro, Y. (1998). Ubuntu and the law in South Africa. Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, 15, 1-6.
[44] Morrow, W. (2007). Learning to teach in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.
[45] Nkondo, G. M. (2007). Ubuntu as public policy in South Africa: A conceptual framework. International Journal of African Renaissance Studies, 2, 88-100.
[46] Ntsihlele, F. M. (2003). Games, gestures and learning in Basotho children’s play songs. Pretoria: University of South Africa (Unpublished).
[47] Nussbaum, B. (2003). Ubuntu: Reflections of a South African on our common humanity. Reflections, 4, 21-26. doi:10.1162/152417303322004175
[48] Nussbaum, M. C. (2002). Patriotism and cosmopolitanism. In M. C. Nussbaum, & J. Cohen (Eds.), For the love of country (pp. 3-20). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
[49] Nzegwu, N. (1998). Chasing shadows: The misplaced search for matriarchy. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 32, 94-622. doi:10.2307/486330
[50] Peters, R. S. (1963). Education as initiation. Inaugural lecture delivered at the Institute of Education, University of London, London, 9 December.
[51] Pretoria News (2012). Jail term for lesbian killers hailed. 1 February.
[52] Ramose, M. B. (2006). The king as memory and symbol of African customary law. In M. O. Hinz, & H. K. Patemann (Eds.), The shade of new leaves: Governance in traditional authority, a Southern Afrimcan perspective (pp. 351-374). Windhoek: Centre for Applied Social Sciences, University of Namibia.
[53] Ramose, M. B. (2002). The philosophy of ubuntu and ubuntu as a philosophy. In P. H. Coetzee, & A. P. J. Roux (Eds.), Philosophy from Africa: A text with readings (pp. 230-238). Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
[54] Ramose, M. B. (1999). African Philosophy through Ubuntu. Harare: Mond Books Publishers.
[55] Sartre, J. (2003). Being and nothingness: An essay on phenomenological ontology. London and New York: Routledge Classic.
[56] Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K. (2012). Colleges should teach intellectual virtues. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 February.
[57] Shanafelt, R. (1988). The heroic ideal in three Sotho novellas of labour migration. African Studies, 47, 47-61. doi:10.1080/00020188808707687
[58] Shutte, A. (2001). Buntu: An ethic for the new South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications.
[59] Shutte, A. (1994). Philosophy for Africa. Rondebosch: UCT Press.
[60] Sindane, J., & Liebenberg, I. (2000). Reconstruction and the reciprocal other: The philosophy and practice of Ubuntu and democracy in African society. Politeia, 19, 31-46.
[61] Sindane, J. (1994). Ubuntu and nation building. Pretoria: Ubuntu School of Philosophy.
[62] Singer, P. (2002). Writings on an ethical life. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
[63] Singer, P. (1997). How are we to live?: Ethics in an age of self-interest. New York: Oxford University Press.
[64] Taylor, C. (1991). Cross-purposes: The liberal-communitarian debate. In N. Rosenblum (Ed.), Liberalism and the moral life (pp. 159-182). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[65] Teffo, L. J. (1994) The concept of Ubuntu as a cohesive moral value. Pretoria: Ubuntu School of Philosophy.
[66] Wiredu, K. (1996). Cultural universals and particulars: An African perspective. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
[67] Wiredu, K. (1992). The moral foundations of an African culture. In K. Wiredu, & K. Gyekye (Eds.), Person and community: Ghanaian philosophical studies (Volume I, pp. 193-206). Washington DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.