Ubuntu Education: It takes a community.

If you want to go far, go together.


It is a Zulu word meaning humanness or humanity to others.

The first time I heard it in a South African drama, the actor translated it as I am because we are. A poignant explanation that has remained with me to this day. He couldn’t have interpreted it in clearer terms for a non-native South African like me.

A deeper dive into the word would reveal its roots in African philosophy, where the concept of community is one of the building blocks of society. Ubuntu is the idea of common humanity, of oneness. The research would also uncover the full phrase as, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, meaning a person is through others.

One organization, Ubuntu Education, is using this term as a foundation to drive its activities. Cue the name.

The Ubuntu Why?

Founded by David Marriott, Eric Mugwiza and Jess King who all met whilst working at an international school in Malawi, Africa, Ubuntu Education runs on the premise that effective education systems are built on strong communities. All three partners were educated in Africa and the UK and share a common vision for education on the African continent; – ‘outstanding’ education should be physically and economically accessible to all children and all educators and should be contextualised to meet the future that Africa faces.

The Ubuntu notion is almost similar to the adage about a community raising a well-rounded child and not just the responsibility of an immediate family’s influence. It takes a collective, a community to achieve well-educated, well-rounded individuals.

To this end, Ubuntu Education has a vision to build strong local and pan-African educational communities which empower and develop its learners from within. This drives its mission to provide decolonised and accessible tools for schools and educators in Africa to grow and strengthen their communities, allowing education to transform from the inside, out.

Ubuntu Education proudly aligns with sustainable development goal number four of quality education. However, it takes this goal a little farther with something it calls a decolonised education.

A decolonised education in an educational setting is influenced by several stakeholders such as the students, staff, school communities, and local and national contexts. It adopts international best practices yet remains locally relevant and celebratory.

The Three Ubuntu Agenda

  • A Decolonised Education System

A connected educator is a better educator.

As mentioned above, Ubuntu recognises the importance of a decolonised education where knowledge, thoughts and values of local contexts belong on the same platform as Western knowledge systems. Though the Ubuntu team comprise Africans or individuals who have experienced the continent and all it offers, it is not restricted to Africans only as this would negate the spirit of the community the word, Ubuntu, represents. The company hopes its content will reach others who identify with its philosophy and African flavour. It is also committed to the development and growth of educational networking on the African continent and other opportunities that will bring African educators together in order to benefit from one another. 

  • A Transformative Education

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.

This is education focused on developing future generations in a holistic manner and equipping them with the tools needed to solve complex problems of the modern world. It includes attention to such soft skills referred to as the three Cs – communication, collaboration, and creativity. Individuals equipped with these can network effectively, think creatively and work across borders.

In addition, Ubuntu is big on entrepreneurship, risk-taking and resilience in today’s society; three traits that would make a formidable combination with the three Cs above. The company plans to shape young minds to be optimistic and adopt the ‘can-do’ mindset required to tackle modern challenges like climate change, the rapidly expanding world of AI and social media, and the constantly evolving political landscape.

  • Digital transformation

Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.

With Covid–19 and rapid technological advancements, it is imperative for schools to be proactive towards abrupt changes in direction, rapid communication, and consistent access to learning for all students. Here, Ubuntu’s goal is to enable educational institutions to effectively navigate these changes in a post-pandemic world of education. By leveraging technology and embracing a digital transformation agenda, it believes that schools can position themselves to meet the needs of the new normal of the educational landscape.

Usawa School Development Initiative: Another Ubuntu Education Programme

The Usawa Programme is a school development subscription and accrediting service that is unique and collaborative in its approach to achieving quality education. In the true spirit of ‘Ubuntu’, Usawa helps schools to transform from the inside, out. In other words, it works in collaboration with existing educational institutions.

The programme begins with

  • a free, online, self-assessment tool.
  • then workshops are facilitated, and communication pathways developed between the school and the community.
  • on the back of this is the school’s strategic plan and implementation steps.
  • there will also be 12 months of one-on-one consultant and professional support for the school.
  • a thorough, 360 evaluation for all stakeholders involved—the school, community, etc.
  • after which the school receives an accredited membership status with Ubuntu Education
  • the school’s marketing materials are developed, and it gains access to the network and the resources on the Ubuntu hub.

Existing and new schools wishing to transform to meet modern educational demands can embark on the Usawa programme.

Ubuntu Education Wins

So far, the company has recorded the following successes: 

  • Accepted into the Injini EdTech Accelerator Programme.
  • Organized a hugely successful education conference in Malawi with the theme: Early Childhood Development.
  • Launched the Ubuntu HUB and signed up nearly 1500 educators from 11 African countries – Nigeria being the greatest intake- in just one month.
  • Secured a grant from Mastercard Foundation to further develop the Digital Transformation for Schools programme alongside its Usawa School Development Initiative, allowing it to work with schools in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda.
  • Impacted 3680 children with its services.
  • Engaged 1243 school staff with its programmes for personal and school purposes.
  • First EdTech company to put African schools in charge of their own development.

Ubuntu Education is motivated to improve educational outcomes and believes the time is ripe for affordable, accessible professional development for teachers in Africa, that is contextualized to meet the needs of teachers in this region.

The model is targeted at African, Anglophone countries in the sub-Saharan region and currently works in four countries. It plans to expand to five more in the next five years.

The company actively seeks like-minded individuals and organizations to collaborate with to tailor and deliver education along transformative lines.

Because in the end, it takes all of us, Ubuntu, to create the educational environment we desire. It takes all of us to create a better world for ourselves and the next generations.

Find out more information about Ubuntu Education here.

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