A favorite lesson of mine is to teach about the Bantu term, "Ubuntu." I have taught this to graduate students, kindergarten students and high school students too. This is a beautiful word from South Africa that helps us understand our connection to others. There is no word in the English language that has the same meaning as Ubuntu so it can be a little bit difficult to understand. Below are some examples of what it means:
- “A person with “ubuntu” is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.”
- “They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are.”
In Africa when they want to give a compliment to someone they would say, “Yu u nobuntu!” – Which means that that person has “ubuntu!” Ubuntu reminds us that “we need each other and that we can not survive and thrive without one another.” These quotes were taken from, God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu
When teaching young children we take a few minutes to explore the special gifts that each person brings to the classroom or to the world too! This helps to bring Ubuntu to life. We talk abut how some people are good at telling jokes, some people are good at laughing, or math, or sweeping or working with clay or drawing. I want them to know that there are so many talents to celebrate and we each contribute to the goodness of the classroom when we share our best. I want them to know that we all make the class feel special when we contribute.
We also talk about some of the other tools that we always have at our disposal to bring more “Ubuntu” to our classroom and world. Aside from our gifts and our breath, we talked about our smiles, our imagination, our words, behaviors and small acts of kindness. What is most important is that students understand how important their presence is in the world – and that all of the small things that we together do make a positive difference for everyone.