Ubuntu and Social Work Resources

Ubuntu is a collection of values and practices that Black people of Africa view as making people and their communities authentic. While the nuances of these values and practices vary across different ethnic groups, they all point to one thing – an authentic individual human being is part of a larger and more significant relational, communal, societal, environmental and spiritual world. The term ubuntu is expressed differently is several African communities and languages but all referring to the same thing. In Angola, it is known as gimuntu, Botswana (muthu), Burkina Faso (maaya), Burundi (ubuntu), Cameroon (bato), Congo (bantu), Congo Democratic Republic (bomoto/bantu), Cote d’Ivoire (maaya), Equatorial Guinea (maaya), Guinea (maaya), Gambia (maaya), Ghana (biako ye), Kenya (utu/munto/mondo), Liberia (maaya), Malawi (umunthu), Mali (maaya/hadama de ya), Mozambique (vumuntu), Namibia (omundu), Nigeria (mutunchi/iwa/agwa), Rwanda (bantu), Sierra Leonne (maaya), South Africa (ubuntu/botho), Tanzania (utu/obuntu/bumuntu), Uganda (obuntu), Zambia (umunthu/ubuntu) and Zimbabwe (hunhu/unhu/botho/ubuntu). It is also found in other Bantu countries not mentioned here (source: African Journal of Social Work, 2020).

Ubuntu has been selected as a theme for this year’s World Social Work day. This is an acknowledgement of African social work and African knowledges handed to us by our genealogies. In academia, we can say ubuntu is a grand philosophy, with several theories under it. In practice and research, we say it is a way of doing things, a way of working. For the African clients and for African social workers, it is a way of life. 

Below is a list of peer reviewed journal articles and books focusing on Ubuntu in social work:  

Samkange, S. and Samkange, T. M. (1980). Hunhuism or Ubuntuism: A Zimbabwean Indigenous Political Philosophy. Salisbury: Graham Publishing.

Mugumbate, J., & Nyanguru, A. (2013). Exploring African philosophy: The value of Ubuntu in social work. African Journal of Social Work, 3(1), 82-100.

Mugumbate, J. (2020). Samkange’s theory of Ubuntu and its contribution to a decolonised social work pedagogy. In Morley, C. (Ed.), Ablett, P. (Ed.), Noble, C. (Ed.), Cowden, S. (Ed.). Routledge Handbook of Critical Pedagogies. London: Routledge.

Mugumbate, J. R. and Chereni, A. (2019). Using African ubuntu theory in social work with children in Zimbabwe. African Journal of Social Work, 9(1), 27-35.

Council of Social Workers (Zimbabwe) (CSW) (2012). Social workers code of ethics. Statutory Instrument 146 of 2012.

Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous research methodologies. Los Angeles: Sage.

Seehawer, M. K. (2018). Decolonising research in a Sub-Saharan African context: exploring Ubuntu as a foundation for research methodology, ethics and agenda. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 1-14.

Dziro, C. and Rufurwokuda, A. (2013). Post-institutional integration challenges faced by children who were raised in children’s homes in Zimbabwe: The Case of “Ex-girl” Programme for one children’s home in Harare, Zimbabwe. Greener Journal of Social Sciences3, 268-277.

Metz, T. (2016).  Recent philosophical approaches to social protection: From capability to Ubuntu.Global Social Policy16(2), 132–150

Mupedziswa, R., Rankopo, M. and Mwansa, L. (2019). Ubuntu as a Pan-African Philosophical Framework for Social Work in Africa. Social Work Practice in Africa Indigenous and Innovative Approaches. Eds J. M.  Twikirize and H. Spitzer. Kampala: Fountain.

Rankopo, M. J., and Osei-Hwedie, K. (2011). Globalization and Culturally Relevant Social Work: African Perspectives on Indigenization. International Social Work1, 137-157.

Tshoose, C. (2009). The emerging role of the constitutional value of ubuntu for informal social security in South Africa. African Journal of Legal Studies, 3, 12–19.

van Breda, A. D. (2019). Developing the notion of Ubuntu as African theory for social work practice. Social Work55(4), 439-450. 

Whitworth, A. and Wilkinson, K. (2013). Tackling child poverty in South Africa: Implications of ubuntu for the system of social grants. Development Southern Africa,30, 121–134.

Hunhu/ubuntu philosophy as a guide for ethical decision making in social work

Indigenous approaches to integrate unaccompanied minors: an evaluation of psychosocial services at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

Baba Jairos Jiri’s ubuntu models of charity, disability and rehabilitation

Ubuntu and child welfare policy in Zimbabwe: a critical analysis of the national orphan care policy’s six-tier system

Community-based, endogenous and ubuntu inspired child protection mechanisms: case of the girl power program in addressing school-related gender-based violence in Chibombo District of Zambia

The interface between Botho and social work practice in Botswana: towards Afrocentric models

Ubuntu theories