«The ongoing wars around the world have led to an ever increasing exodus of refugee populations for resettlement in developed countries, including the ...»
Erikson (1968) believed that because of these crises, peers become an important asset (besides parents and teachers) to whom adolescents look up to for confirmation in their own reflections and in seeking affirmation. They rely on their friends/peers as support systems through their navigation of conflicting choices they are confronted with as they enter into young adulthood. As a result, many adolescents may form cliques to identify with during times of discomfort, making them even overly conscious about the image they portray amongst their peers. Adolescents who receive encouragement and affirmation from their social interactions (e.g., parents, teachers, and peers) develop a sense of fidelity, “the capacity for sustaining loyalties in the midst of inevitable conflicts of values” (p. 133). This capacity enables adolescents to make and sustain friendships with different people in their lives. On the contrary, adolescents who fail to accomplish their tasks at this stage become insecure about themselves and uncertain about the future, a state Erikson referred to as identity diffusion.
Erikson‟s (1968) psychosocial developmental stages beginning from trust vs. mistrust until identity vs. role confusion form the foundational tasks for children and early adolescents from the Western perspective of human growth and development. Although adolescence is marked by transition from childhood to adulthood in general, there are some cultural variations that may distinguish adolescents from one culture to another (Rousseau et al., 2005). For example, the formation of an identity for adolescents within the U.S. may differ from adolescents (e.g., refugees and immigrants) from a different cultural background. Notably, while adolescents from a Western oriented culture (e.g.,
collectivistic cultures (e.g., Africans) involves the interplay of several factors such as cultural values and customs, religious practices, and specific gender roles (Rousseau et al., 2005). Even for African refugees who are forced by circumstances to flee their countries of origin, different values, customs, and practices form the foundation for child and adolescent upbringing in their culture.
The African concept of Ubuntugogy has its basis in the African way of life and philosophy summed up in ubuntu- a word from the Southern African language family (e.g., Ndebele, Swazi, Xhosa, and Zulu) meaning “humanity/fellow feeling or kindness” (Bangura, 2005). Ubuntogogy is defined as “the art and science of teaching and learning undergirded by humanity towards others” (Bangura, 2005, p. 13). Other scholars (e.g., Nafukho, 2006) have used different terms (i.e., Ubuntuism) to refer to the same concept of humanity encompassing the African worldview of “Umuntu Ugumuntu Ugabantu,” translated as “a person is a person through other persons” (Bangura, 2005, p. 31;
Nafukho, 2006, p. 409). This African worldview forms the foundation for the general upbringing and education of its members. Respect for others and being compassionate are emphasized in education and passed on from one generation to another. Therefore, Ubuntugogy is used as a way of conduct and guide of social ethic describing human beings as social beings who meaningfully exist in relation to others (Nafukho, 2006).
Bangura (2005) delineated three major tenets of Ubuntu or African humanism,
concept of “a person is a person through others” is more than mere treatment with respect and decency of others. He pointed out that Africans are extremely religious persons and, in the African tradition, an individual is always in a state of becoming through other people, including children and ancestors. That is, the living and the dead are equally important and dependent upon each other. Ultimately, dying is considered a homecoming to the place of ancestors. The ancestors are invoked and act as mediators between the living and the Supreme Being, particularly during calamities. Therefore, it is paramount that they are respected and, where necessary, appeased (e.g., offering them food during harvest and festivals) to enhance the community‟s well-being. Religious beliefs and practices are to be respected by all members because they guide the community in all endeavors of life.
At the core of consensus building of Ubuntu is the importance of pursuit for consensus and reconciliation among community members (Bangura, 2005). Disputes among many African communities are accorded lengthy discussions with the goal of eventual attainment of peace. Notably, a hierarchy of importance among the speakers is recognized but each member is granted an equal opportunity to contribute in the matters of discussion until a consensus or group cohesion is attained (Bangura, 2005). Among Africans, the significance of the final agreement in a discussion is symbolized by expressions such as “simunye” (“we are one or unity is strength”). Nafukho (2006) concurred with the same concept of the importance of agreement being signified by terms like “omulembe” (“peace”), “obulala” (“togetherness”), “umoja” (“oneness”), and
of others‟ opinions and appreciation of differences (Bangura, 2005). These differences are considered an asset and not a liability for the well-being of the members. This in essence requires respect for human rights and values of the immediate community members and others beyond their borders.
Dialogue forms the third tenet of Ubuntu philosophy and it lays emphasis on particularity, individuality, and historicality (Bangura, 2005). In this tenet, the need for dialogue among African people begins with the immediate family and then extends to the community and larger society. Bangura (2005) underscored this central value of dialogue when he stated that “Ubuntu inspires us to expose ourselves to others, to encounter the differences of their humanness in order to inform and enrich our own” (p. 32). By this, human beings‟ knowledge base and wisdom is increased as people learn from each other.
Nafukho (2006) noted that this is accomplished through an individual‟s recognition of his/her own humanity, and the otherness/uniqueness of other humans. Bangura (2005) summed up the notion of dialogue in the African saying “Umuntu Ngumentu Ngabantu” translated as “to be human is to affirm one‟s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others in its infinite variety of content and form” (p. 32).
Stressing the importance of particularities in Ubuntu, Bangura (2005) noted the need to respect others‟ beliefs and practices. This respect transcends a particular community‟s beliefs and encompasses other communities whose beliefs and practices benefit the society as well. These include acknowledging the diversity of languages, histories, values, and customs that constitute a society (Bangura, 2005). Unlike individuality as
respect for individuality in the dialogue aspect of Ubuntu is the perception that an individual exists in the society in relationships with others (Bangura, 2005; Nafukho, 2006).
Therefore, as these relationships evolve and change, so does the individual‟s character and attitudes. Within this context, the individual “signifies a plurality of personalities corresponding to the multiplicity of relationships in which the individual in question stands” (Bangura, p. 33). It denotes the “uniqueness” and “otherness” of the person that is beneficial to others‟ well-being. Central to the individual‟s existence is “others” and not “separateness” at the expense of others and the community. Within the African context, therefore, life is considered transitional, “from solitary to solidarity, from independence to interdependence, from individuality vis-à-vis community to individuality a la community” (p. 33).
Respect for historicality within Ubuntu is an emphasis on the “ongoing-ness” of the individual in relation to others (Bangura, 2005). From the African perspective, human beings are dynamic in nature and thus flexibility but not rigidity is stressed among its members. The perception of the uniqueness or otherness of another human being is not a fixed and closed entity; rather, there are opportunities for adjustment. This notion encourages the other person to continue “becoming.” Overall, the basic tenets of Ubuntogogy/Ubuntuism are the foundational base for education and child upbringing among many African societies. Children are taught the holistic view of life and its interrelatedness with different aspects (e.g., spirituality). Although some of the traditional
and is still the basis for some current practices among many African communities, especially regarding children upbringing and well-being.
African Child Rearing Practices, Values, and Beliefs Ubuntugogy forms the educational foundation in African communities with a particular emphasis on communal harmony and learning from each other (Nafukho, 2006). From childhood education is an ongoing process. Teachers include parents, brothers, sisters, members of the same age group, extended family members, and the older and skilled persons from the community (Bangura, 2005). Education passed on to children is intentional and goal oriented. From the time the child is born, parents, particularly mothers, are the most important teachers. Besides nurturing children, mothers‟ responsibilities include encouraging children to walk at the proper age.
Some of the important customs, traditions, and core values unique to each ethnic community are taught to the younger generations of boys and girls by their elders (Bangura, 2005). These customs and values include respect for elders, good eating manners, maintaining virginity until marriage (for girls), and emphasizing the need for courage (e.g., among boys as protectors of the community against outside intrusion). In the education system important skills in all these areas are emphasized and a departure from the established norms, values, and traditions is condemned and discouraged (Bangura, 2005).
Because of the importance of upholding and passing on the community‟s values and traditions, every member of the community has a responsibility to pass the legacy to
community (not just immediate and extended family members) discipline a child or adolescent who is found on the wrong doing. This is in stark contrast to the Western view of the role of caregivers in the child‟s upbringing and overall development, a view that is more individualistic and not collectivistic in children‟s development.
Although some of the African values are passed on orally, other lessons are accomplished through teamwork of specific age groups of boys and girls participating in various activities (i.e., depending upon the content of the lessons). This is necessary because the curriculum for the younger generation is holistic. It encompasses politics, economics, social relations, biology, geography, and nature study (Bangura, 2005).
Interactions of youth are organized to accomplish the responsibilities and attain the skills they need in these areas. For example, in some ethnic communities, boys of the same age group are initiated into adolescence through rites of passage (e.g., circumcision) that are conducted by selected members of the community.
Initiation ceremonies (normally done after youth reached puberty) are used as a means to impart knowledge to adolescents about community values. These include emphasis on the importance of working together as members of the same age group and community (for both boys and girls), the need to support one another, and the courage necessary for their success in future as heads of their own households. On the other hand, girls are taught by older women the virtues of nurturing and caring for the families, cooking, and preparing for marriage. A sense of solidarity and togetherness are emphasized to the young generations through these activities, aspects that enhance the
education also includes the interweaving of religion (art of communication with the ancestors taught to the youth after initiation), warfare, and marriage through ceremonies.
Therefore, while similar to Erikson‟s (1968) emphasis on the role of peers during different crises of an adolescent, the adolescent within the African cultural context has little room for crisis due to interdependence and togetherness taught from an early age.
Besides, the African adolescent has teachers who are ever present and it matters not whether they are related to the child. This constant presence of a support system is a vital aspect of not just their physical growth, but their development in other areas of their lives.
To ensure a holistic education in the development of youth, other areas of education include medicine (e.g., medicinemen and herbalists), carpenters, blacksmiths, military instructors, specialists in making bows and arrows, basket weavers, and fishing equipment (Bangura, 2005). Its aim is threefold: satisfy personal needs, encourage and facilitate growth of individual talents, and provide service to the community an individual came from (Bangura, 2005). Successful passage to young adulthood is determined by the youths‟ passing of the tests (e.g., mothers pretend to be sick in order for their daughters to take full responsibilities in the home). Boys are tested through their display of courage during encounters with fierce animals (e.g., while out in the fields tending livestock).
Therefore, through the concept of Ubuntu, the African youth is prepared for life‟s complexities, learning of skills and responsibilities, the need to take initiative and learn new ways (e.g., change in attitudes through intellectual growth and creativity) in order to