1st Edition

Ubuntu Philosophy and Disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited By Oliver Mutanga Copyright 2024

    This book uses Ubuntu philosophy to illuminate the voices of people with disabilities from Sub-Saharan Africa. Disability literature is largely dominated by scholars and studies from the Global North, and these studies are largely informed by Global North theories and concepts. Although disability literature in the Global South is now fast growing, most studies continue to utilise conceptual, theoretical, and philosophical frameworks that are framed within Global North contexts. This presents two major challenges: Firstly, the voices of people with disabilities in the Global South remain on the fringes of disability discourses. Secondly, when their voices are heard, their realities are distorted.

    This edited book, consisting of 11 chapters, provides case studies from Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Uganda, and South Africa, explores disability in various fields: Inclusive education, higher education, environment, Open Distance Learning, and Technical and Vocational Education and Technical Colleges.

    The book contributes to the ways in which disability is understood and experienced in the Global South thereby challenging the Western hegemonic discourses on disability. This collection of contributions will be of interest to all scholars and students of disability studies, development studies, medical sociology, and African studies.

    Chapter One – Ubuntu philosophy and Disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa: Successes, promises and challenges for Inclusive Development
    Oliver Mutanga

    Chapter Two – The relevance of Ubuntu in disability: A political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental (PESTLE) analysis
    Robert K. Chigangaidze, Itai H. Mafa, Tapiwanashe G. Simango and Elia Mudehwe

    Chapter Three – Disability and inclusion in South African Higher Education: An Ubuntu philosophical perspective
    Oliver T. Gore

    Chapter Four – A review of students with disabilities’ experiences in higher education: Implications of adopting Ubuntu philosophy to human development
    Raphael P. K Andoh and Rita K Nketsiaba

    Chapter Five – The cultivation of Botho attitude towards people with disabilities: Inclusion in Lesotho Higher Education
    Malephoto Niko Ruth Lephoto and Olufemi Timothy Adigun

    Chapter Six – Injecting Ubuntu in designing accessible virtual learning for students with disabilities
    Thuli Shandu-Phetla, Sindile A. Ngubane and Olufemi Timothy Adigun

    Chapter Seven – Ubuntu philosophy: A Pathway to Decolonising Participatory Research in the Global South
    Tendayi Marovah and Oliver Mutanga

    Chapter Eight – Staff experiences with inclusive education at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in Botswana: A Botho philosophical lens
    Macdelyn Mosalagae

    Chapter Nine – Translating the Ubuntu philosophy into practical disability inclusive interventions: The Obuntu bulamu experience from Uganda
    Femke Bannink Mbazzi

    Chapter Ten – Ubuntu philosophy and the experiences of Deaf people in Ghana: A critical reflection
    Stephen Baffour Adjei, Sarah Tara Sam, Frank Owusu Sekyere and Philip Boateng

    Chapter Eleven - Ubuntu philosophy: Implications and Recommendations for addressing Disability related challenges
    Oliver Mutanga


    Oliver Mutanga is a Critical Diversity scholar who holds a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the University of the Free State in South Africa. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Education in Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan, as well as a Research Associate at the University of South Africa's College of Education. Oliver has gained valuable experience in various countries including Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Norway, and the UK. Before joining Nazarbayev University, he was a Lecturer at De Montfort University in the UK. Oliver has been honoured with prestigious awards such as the Marie Sklodowska Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oslo, Norway (2017/8), and the Global Challenges Research Fellowship at University College London's Institute of Education (2019).

    This edited volume is much needed and valuable contribution to the growing body of work on disability outside the global North. Mutanga and contributors weave a picture of disability and impairment across sub-Saharan Africa (including focussed studies of South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Uganda and Ghana) that, collectively, builds our understanding of the challenges and barriers faced by disabled people living there (particularly in relation to education and social inclusion), and highlights the inclusive potential of Ubuntu philosophy, both as a new framework for future academic inquiry and as a practical tool for informing disability-related policies and strategies in the region and beyond.

    Sarah Dauncey

    Professor of Chinese Society and Disability at University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

    In Ubuntu Philosophy and Disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oliver Mutanga charts a new and refreshing path that not only deconstructs Western Eurocentric perspectives, paradigms and narratives on Disability Studies, which overlook ‘the impact of colonialism and its continuing negative influence on the lives of people with disabilities in the Global South’. Mutanga’s book also centres Disabilities Studies in the African philosophy of Ubuntu. He has assembled a broad and diverse team of African scholars from Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, who draw on the transformative potential of the philosophy of Ubuntu to interrogate colonialist ableist ideologies, social structures, and disability-related challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. A lot has been written, on the one hand on the philosophy of Ubuntu, and on the other hand on disability. Mutanga’s book weaves Disability Studies and the philosophy of Ubuntu into a rich tapestry that breathes fresh air into our taken-for-granted conceptions the notion of ‘disability’. The book is premised on the assumption that the philosophy of Ubuntu philosophy, which is anchored in the values and traditions of numerous sub-Saharan African societies, values and traditions, emphasises communal interdependence, collective problem-solving, kindness, generosity, compassion, benevolence, courtesy, human dignity, caring, and respect and concern for others.

    A brief look into some of the contributions brings out the book’s thrust. For example, drawing on these sub-Saharan African societies’ values and traditions, Chigangaidze, Mafa, Simango and Mudehwe call for political participation of people with disabilities and their inclusivity in the governance of communities. Gore advocates for interventions in disabilities to be foregrounded in Ubuntu’s values such as solidarity, caring, participation, compassion, and respect. Lephoto and Adigun boldly confront the stereotyping of people with disabilities in Lesotho and argue a case for the philosophy of Ubuntu, or Botho in Sesotho as a valuable resource for promoting positive attitudes towards students with disabilities, while also instilling the African ethic of care and support. Writing from an Open Distance Learning (ODL) context, Shandu-Phetla, Ngubane and Adigun broach an often overlooked and neglected area of students with disabilities, and the challenges such students face when navigating the virtual space of online learning where often there are no clear guidelines and policies on the effective use of technology-enabled virtual platforms to support students. They urge ODL institutions to strategically integrate the Ubuntu philosophical values of interdependence, respect, care, and sharing into their programs for support of students with disabilities. Marovah and Mutanga situate Disability Studies and Ubuntu within the discourses of Africanisation and decolonisation. They argue a case for Ubuntu as a tool for decolonising Participatory Research (PR) in the global South with a view to addressing power imbalances and challenges inherent in the research process. They call for future research to explore the application of indigenous African philosophies and practices in decolonising participatory research in order to contribute to the diversification and enrichment of knowledge production in the global South. Ubuntu Philosophy and Disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa is an invaluable, well timed and essential reading for higher education practitioners. It is especially relevant in this era where the world has just emerged from the ravages of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now bracing itself for major socio-economic and cultural challenges as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has the potential to evolve into World War III.

    Moeketsi Letseka

    Professor, Holder of Endowed UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning (University of South Africa), Member of South Africa’s National Commission for UNESCO

    Ubuntu Philosophy and Disabilities in Sub-Saharan Africa employs a variety of methods, including conceptual analysis, qualitative data, participatory research, and applied ethics, to address disability as it features in a variety of African countries and mainly in the context of higher education. It demonstrates how communal values salient in indigenous Africa are a revealing lens through which to appreciate not only ways in which students with disabilities are not given their due, but also which attitudes, technologies, practices, and policies morally must change. Although the contributors believe that context-specific values are vital, readers should not suppose their prescriptions are attractive only for African societies; instead, the world has much to learn from this book about how to bring people closer together when it comes to disability."

    Thaddeus Metz

    Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He is the author of A Relational Moral Theory: African Ethics in and Beyond the Continent