News & Media

ODL and the philosophy of Ubuntu: a symbiosis?

Prof Moeketsi Letseka, Incumbent: UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning, Unisa

The inaugural lecture of Prof Moeketsi Letseka, United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Chair on Open Distance Learning (ODL) at Unisa and Editor-in-Chief of Africa Education Review, was entitled "ODL and the philosophy of Ubuntu: a symbiosis?" and took place on 14 August 2019.

In his presentation, Prof Letseka defined symbiosis as "a relationship of 'living together' in mutual interdependence". The lecture emphasised that the different disciplines offered at Unisa should have a symbiotic relationship with Open Distance Learning (ODL).

Given that the philosophy of Ubuntu is his area of specialisation, Prof Letseka defined ubuntu as a philosophy that is driven by a commitment to the moral values and principles of humaneness, empathy and a deep caring for others. He argued that the conception and delivery of Unisa’s various learning programmes should therefore be guided by the moral principles of Ubuntu, and so should our interactions with stakeholders.

The news team sat down with Prof Letseka to find out what makes him tick.


What are your aspirations in this position?

As a fragile 19-year-old boy, I worked as an underground winch driver at Western Areas goldmine in 1976. I would like to use my position as professor to reach out to and support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds so that they do not have to go the route I took to realise my goals and aspirations.


Name a leader in your field who inspires you.

I am inspired by the writings of French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher, the revolutionary Frantz Fanon. His two books, The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks have been pivotal to my understanding of colonial-induced suffering as an African.


What would your perfect Saturday be like?

Sitting at home with family, having quality time, especially with my children and grandchildren. I cannot put a price to that!


Name a great book you have read recently.

The Enigma of Reason: A New Theory of Human Understanding, by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber.


What is your best childhood memory?

The 1966 or 1967 mornings, or thereabout, when I would crouch under a cow holding a steel bucket, assisting someone I adored and admired deeply, my grandfather, to milk possibly five to eight cows. He always reserved an udder for me from each of the cows for my share of the milk.


What is the best piece of advice you have received?

One autumn afternoon (September 1997), after a research seminar, my mentor, a professor in the philosophy of education at the Institute of Education, University of London, Prof John White, invited me to the Student Union cafeteria for a lager (beer) and advised me to never be the one who stands on hilltops to make a lot of noise about how good I am. Instead, he advised me to value hard work, and to always work smart. He said, “When you work hard, your work will stand out and speak volumes about who you are. You don’t need to advertise your capabilities. Your work will do that for you”.


What is the most unprofessional thing you have seen someone do?

People who pretend they are what they are not.


Which of your personality traits has been the most useful?

Providing support to others.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

 

Publish date: 2019/10/28