March 13, 2016
Written by Benjamin Piper, RTI International
Ubuntu is an African philosophy of human kindness; applying it in the Global South would fundamentally alter the design of the education sector. This essay argues, however, that the ﬁeld of international educational development is not, in fact, structured to support an education inﬂuenced by Ubuntu ideals. Speciﬁcally, the educational development milieu includes donors, implementers and academicians who do not sufﬁciently question the power dynamics which underpin education development. This creates a ﬁeld where the power imbalances between donors and host governments are not interrogated, where development workers place too much faith in their own knowledge rather than that of local education experts, and where development practitioners rarely appreciate the privilege of working in countries which are not their own. An Ubuntu education would alter the educational development ﬁeld in myriad critical ways, a few of which are suggested in this essay.
Educational development programmes in universities and intake programmes for implementers and donors should teach ofﬁcers humility, appreciating existing local talent and expertise. Donor programmes should incentivize reﬂective practice which formally embeds appreciation for local culture and expertise, thereby supporting structures which help educational development experts to review their metacognitive processes. The ﬁeld should also dramatically increase the numbers of local, minority and female educational development practitioners and provide more avenues for advancement for those groups. These are activities which are critical to supporting the education development ﬁeld, but require a fundamental change of attitude by practitioners to ensure the right kind of relationships between the West and the Global South.