UBUNTU (HUMAN DIGNITY) Out of the political tumult of the early 1990’s the peacemakers and negotiators creating the framework of the free state to be extracted a vital sentiment that would become part of the defining vision of the democracy that would emerge at the conclusion of their work. That sentiment- contained in the postscript of the interim Constitution of 1993, which framed the values to which the final Constitution had to adhere – was this: there was a need in South Africa “for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimisation”. In the final Constitution, the drafters applied the notion of ubuntu by asserting that the South African state was founded, before anything else, upon the value of “Human Dignity”. Ubuntu has a particularly important place in our value system for it derives specifically from African mores: “I am human because you are human.” Out of the values of ubuntu and human dignity flow the practices of compassion, kindness, altruism and respect which are at their very core making schools places where the culture of teaching and the culture of learning thrive; of making them dynamic hugs of industry and achievement rather than places of conflict and pain. Equality might require us to put up with people who are different, no-sexism and non-racism might require us to rectify the inequities of the past, but ubuntu goes much further: it embodies the concept of mutual understanding and the active appreciation of the value of human difference. It requires you to know others if you are to know yourself, and if you are to understand your place – and others’ – within a multicultural environment. Ultimately, ubuntu requires you to respect others if you are to respect yourself.
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