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On-line version ISSN 2304-8557
Print version ISSN 0023-270X

Koers (Online) vol.77 n.1 Pretoria  2012




How student teachers understand African philosophy


Hoe student-onderwysers Afrika-filosofie verstaan



Matsephe M. LetsekaI; Elza VenterII

IDepartment of Educational Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa
IIDepartment of Teacher Education, University of South Africa, South Africa





The question 'What constitutes African philosophy?' was first raised with the publication of Placide Tempels's seminal work Bantu philosophy in 1959. Tempels's book inevitably elicited considerable critical response from African philosophers, which culminated in a wide range of publications such as Wiredu's (1980) Philosophy and an African culture, Hountondji's (1983) African philosophy: Myth and reality, Oruka's (1990) Sage philosophy: Indigenous thinkers and modern debate on African philosophy, Shutte's (1993) Philosophy for Africa, Masolo's (1994) African philosophy in search of identity and Gyekye's (1995) An essay of African philosophical thought: The Akan conceptual scheme. It has been over 60 years since the publication of Tempels's book and there continues to be serious debate about African philosophy. This article sought to contribute to the debate on the various conceptions of African philosophy, but with a focus on the challenges of teaching African philosophy to Philosophy of Education students at an open distance learning institution in South Africa. This article discussed the tendency amongst undergraduate Philosophy of Education students to conflate and reduce African philosophy to African cultures and traditions, and to the notion of ubuntu, and sought to understand the reasons for students' inclination to treat African philosophy in this way. It examined students' background knowledge of African philosophy, their critical thinking skills and whether their official study materials are selected and packaged in a manner that, in fact, adds to the challenges they face. Finally, the article explored the ways in which Philosophy of Education lecturers can adapt their pedagogy to provide students with a better understanding of African philosophy.


Die vraag 'Wat behels Afrika-filosofie?' was vir die eerste keer ge-opper met die publikasie van Placide Tempels se werk Bantu Philosophy in 1959. Dit was onvermydelik dat Tempels se boek 'n groot hoeveelheid kritiek uitgelok het van Afrika-filosowe, wat uitgeloop het op 'n wye reeks publikasies, soos: Wiredu (1980) Philosophy and an African Culture; Hountondji (1983) African Philosophy: Myth and Reality; Oruka (1990) Sage Philosophy: Indigenous thinkers and modern debate on African philosophy; Shutte (1993) Philosophy for Africa; Masolo (1994) African Philosophy in Search of Identity; en Gyekye (1995) An Essay of African Philosophical Thought: The Akan Conceptual Scheme. Sestig jaar sedert die publikasie van Tempels se boek is daar steeds ernstige gesprekke rondom Afrika-filosofie. Hierdie artikel wil bydra tot die debat rondom die begrip van Afrika-filosofie, maar met die klem op die uitdagings om Afrika-filosofie aan Filosofie van die Opvoeding studente aan 'n oop afstandsonderrig-instituut in Suid-Afrika te onderrig. Die artikel worstel met die neiging van voorgraadse studente van Filosofie van die Opvoeding om Afrika-filosofie te reduseer tot Afrika kulture en tradisies, asook die idee van ubuntu. Die artikel probeer om te verstaan waarom studente Afrika-filosofie op dié wyse hanteer. Daar word gekyk na die studente se agtergrondkennis van Afrika-filosofie, hulle kritiese denkvaardigheid en of die amptelike studiemateriaal dalk op wyse geselekteer en bymekaar gevoeg word wat kan bydra tot die uitdagings wat studente in die gesig staar. In die laaste instansie eksploreer die navorsers maniere waarop dosente van Filosofie van die Opvoeding hul pedagogie kan aanpas om studente te help om Afrika-filosofie beter te kan verstaan.



Full text available only in PDF format.



I am grateful to my Doctoral promoter and co-author Professor Elza Venter for her guidance and support during my study. I am also grateful for the financial support and access to the library material I received from the University of South Africa.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors' contributions

M.M.L. (University of South Africa) was the Doctoral student and author of the thesis from which this article is drawn. E.V. (University of South Africa) was M.M.L.'s Doctoral promoter and mentor and co-author of the article.



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Matsephe Letseka
PO Box 392
University of South Africa, 0003
South Africa

Received: 05 July 2011
Accepted: 29 Sept. 2011
Published: 12 Nov. 2012

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