Schools That Embrace Ubuntu

Sawu bona.

I see you.

This is the most common greeting among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa.


I am here.

Until you see me, I do not exist. When you see me, you bring me into existence. My humanity is tied to yours.

What has this to do with schools?


This is the spirit of ubuntu, a word that stems from Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu which means “A person is a person because of other people” or “I am, because you are”.

Still don’t get the connection?

This is about mutual respect and seeing the essence of each other. It is about togetherness and how all of our actions have an impact on others and on the school community. In a school, we are all connected and we can only grow and progress via the growth and progression of others.

No one is an island in a school because every single thing that we do has an effect on the school family. When teachers work in silos or as small cliques then our interconnection is damaged.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it best:

“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

In toxic schools the spirit of ubuntu is not something you will see because the teachers are oppressed and work against each other. In this atmosphere, teachers fail to see that collaboration is king and connectivity is the ultimate winning strategy. The community is more important than an individual under the ubuntu philosophy.

When a school is not held together by all of its teachers then things can be tense because some members of staff are working towards personal goals and interests based on different value systems. This can mean there is no team spirit and teamwork is hard to achieve.

What can you do to make a difference?

What can we do to make a difference?

When a school shares the spirit of ubuntu this produces cooperative and collaborative working relationships because teachers are encouraged to participate, share and support each other. Isn’t that what all schools should be about?

A family spirit helps improve organisational effectiveness and helps us build an inclusive, respectful, and vibrant community.

Schools thrive in the spirit of oneness, teamwork and empathy. All we need is ubuntu. Sawu bona.

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