To the Teacher:
This activity uses a circle format. Students and adults are seated in a circle and pass a “talking piece” around the circle to share their thoughts and reflections (or pass if they wish). A center piece in the middle of the circle ideally has meaning for the participants. For more on the circle process, please see this introduction.
Write the word UBUNTU on a sheet of paper and place it in the center piece. Explain that the concept of Ubuntu is used by the Bantu people of Southern Africa. Then read out loud the following explanation of the word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and South Africa’s late President Nelson Mandela.
Desmond Tutu: “Ubuntu [is] the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Nelson Mandela: “A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but … Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address [help] themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
Next, send a talking piece around inviting students for reflections on the word Ubuntu as explained by Archbishop Tutu and the late Nelson Mandela.
- How do you relate to this concept?
- What in your culture or community is similar or different to this idea of Ubuntu?
Consider also asking:
- What events this summer confirm this concept for you?
Building on what students share, explain that concept of Ubuntu isn’t just a social idea – it is affirmed by quantum physics, which points to the profound interconnectness of the universe. The physical world is an inseparable whole, and each action has consequences that reverberate throughout.
Sheldon Berman, founder of Educators for Social Responsibility, defined a community as "a group of people who acknowledge their interconnectedness, have a sense of their common purpose, respect their differences, share in group decision-making as well as in responsibility for the actions of the group, and support each other's growth."
Tell students that we’ll now explore some things that have happened in the world over the summer – and think about how these events affect us. How do we see our interconnectivity in our exploration of events around the world this past summer?
In the News, Summer 2018
Print up a selection of the tweets included in this PDF document, and post them around the room. Explain that these are tweets about stories in the news this summer.
Invite students to walk around the room in silence, reading the various tweets. Ask them to decide on a tweet that stands out for them, one that resonates with them for whatever reason.
Next, ask students to return to their seat in the circle. Send the talking piece around, asking students to share the tweet they decided on and explain why. What do they know about this news story? Who was impacted by it and how?
After everyone has had a chance to share, send the talking piece around a few more times, asking some or all of the following questions:
- Do you have any connections, reflections, or additions to what was shared in the circle just now?
- Do you notice any patterns in what was shared?
- Are there other stories you have followed this summer? What stories are missing? Whose stories are missing?
- Do you have direct personal connections to any of these stories?
- Can you think of any indirect connections you have to these stories?
- How does this relate to the idea of Ubuntu that we discussed earlier?
Invite students to go back to the Archbishop Tutu quote from before in which he shared “you are connected and what you do affects the whole world” and the Nelson Mandela story, which he ended with the words: “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
Ask students to think of one thing they can do to create a positive impact on their class, advisory, school community, and on people beyond our immediate circles?
Send a talking piece around asking students to share out what kind of positive ripple they’d like to send through their community.