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Moral education is an important aspect that is much discussed in agent of academic capitalism.It is analysed as a way to recover the genuine spirit behind the education. This book is important for its critical readings of moral education in the context of sub-Saharan Africa.It traces the roots of moral education in African philosophies such as Ubuntu/Botho and in so doing replenishes debates on African ethics.In the introduction of the book,Sharlene Swartz engages with the African philosopher Mogobe Ramose’s projection of Ubuntu/Botho as a challenge to “timocracy,”or rule by money (p. 2).In fact, Swartz opens a debate on the linkages between social theory and rural education. Author thus foregrounds an intellectual journey that extends beyond the Eurocentric philosophical cloisters on ethics, morality, and education.

moraledThaddeus Metz and Joseph B.R.Gaie’s chapter,“The African Ethic of Ubuntu/Botho: Implications for Research on Morality,” contends that sub-Saharan African ethics challenge the epistemological corollary of Western types of morality.It discusses the pragmatic aspects of utilitarian and Kantian perspectives , along with Lawrence Kohlberg’s understanding of nature of morality. Thus, it endeavors to show how the African path can differ from the hegemonic Western understanding. Afro-communitarianism is considered as a way to develop further debates on the nature of such a difference. It explores moral ideas that are ingrained sub-Saharan values. Authors argue on behalf of the neglected status of African communitarianism in global moral discourse.

One of the cardinal questions raised here is about the possibility of an empirical enquiry to morality. Unlike western, individualist model of property,Ubuntu/Botho connects property to that of bonds within communities, and likewise is the case with the  criminal justice and family life.A comparative reading of Ubuntu/Botho with that of Lawrence Kohlberg invokes verisimilitudes and departures. Restorative justice is central to Ubuntu/Bothothought.In a review article on African ethics, Thaddeus Metz navigates through the writings of Munyaradzi Felix Murove and Ronald Nocolson to illuminate theoretical and applied facets of sub-Saharan ethics.

Mogobe B.Ramose, in the chapter entitled “The Death of Democracy and the Resurrection of Timocracy,” argues that ethical dilemmas are produced through timocracy’s onslaught on democracy.It shows the ways in which the velocity of money acquires dominance over mundane lives and undermines human dignity.By contrast, moral education highlights relations with others.It probes the questions of justice and the poor that are ingrained in African-philosophical worlds.On the other hand, Sharlene Swartz’s insightful article “‘Moral Ecology’ and ‘Moral Capital’: Tools towards a Sociology of Moral Education from South African Ethnography” revisits the sociological discourse on morality and its involvement with moral education. Thus the impact of the moral on the social as well as economic conditions of impoverished communities is discussed in a systemaic fashion.. The article attempts to understand lacune in parenting, schooling and education that are reproduced in the post-Apartheid era at Lunga, a periurban township which is adjacent to Cape town. It offers an account of how communities experience old and new values.Urie Brofenbrenner’s ecological systems theory is deployed by the author unfold the dimensions of human development. It is based on the order of systems such as microsystem(context of work,school and home),mesosystem(connecting threads among Microsystems),the exosystems(institutions and practices that impact youth),macrosystems(cultural and social realms) and chronosystems(temporal transitions).It maps youth’s rural perceptionsof the society and focuses on the role of poverty in determining the resources and opportunities of the poor. Moral capital as a category is used to read the social dimensions of moral education.Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas on capital(s) are discussed in this context to widen the ambit on the deliberations on moral capital. The poor is being analyzed here as a section who can transform the moral capital in to economic capital. In an higher level, it can be considered as the ways to struggle against the oppression and achieve social mobility.Sharlene Swartz focusses on four aspects such as relational connection,reflective practice,personal agency and significance of supporting environment (Swartz, p. 59).Relational connection acts as a form of capital which considers connections as a harbinger of the goodness. On the other hand,reflective practice rethinks on the contradictions that decide moral belief as well as moral behavior.Personal agency is associated with the recognition of young groups,agency and care.Enabling environment acts as the requisite for the acquisition of moral capital.Nuanced locations of moral ecology and moral education are elicited to move towards perspectives on moral action, moraldesire, moral identity and moral knowledge.Sharlene Swartz invites us to travel with the trajectories of youth subjectivities to address the larger predicaments that are inherent in education.

YonahH.Mateb’s chapter,“Continuity and Change in the Development of Moral Education in Botswana,” tries to examine  the historical transformations of the moral education in Botswana.It reviews the nature of the discipline and ideological variations that started from precolonial period to its contemporary versions.Moral education,in turn,has changed from it’s religious mode to that of secular nature.Role of indigenous education that framed values and appropriation of colonial powers and missionaries of such earlier practices of moral education has subjected to a balanced historical reading.However,traditional ways of indigenous education were challenged with the emergence of Christian education that situated Bible at the centre of such discourse during 1870s.The arguemts that differentiate moral education and multiple faith traditions helps us to initiate critical approach on the boundaries of tradition,equality and modernity.Moral education in Botswana thus is embedded with in the indigenous moral education and its connection with Christianity.

Hermeneglide Rwantabagu’s chapter,“Moral Education in Post-Conflict Context: TheCase of Burundi,” provokes us to imagine whether the absence of quest for the notion of the moral afflicts the school curricula or not . It examines the withering of local cultural worlds due to the onslaught of colonialism.Broadly; it examines the moral education and the post-Burundian genocide era and narrates about the inespacable relations between moral education and communities.

Gail Weldon’s chapter,“Post-Conflict Teacher Development: Facing the Past in South Africa,”empathizes with the conflicts that are centered around social locations and the struggle to imagine an egalitarian society .It evaluates the role played by the identities of teachers and the emphasises on the need to engage with the stigmatized personal accounts related to past in the context of “Facing the Past Workshop” (2003).Racialised socialisation is read as an antidote to the liberating sphere of education. The teacher development program and curriculum in the post-apartheid era of South Africa are discussed to consider the past to accommodate moral and ethical dimensions in to the field of teaching.

Writings that argue for the moral education’s involvement in AIDS shows how culture prevents the deliberations on AIDS and moral education. The chapter “Deceptive’ Cultural Practices that Sabotage HIV/AIDS Education in Tanzania and Kenya” by Mary Oluga,Susan Kiragu,Mussa K.Mohamed, and Shelina Walli examines how female and young children are reluctant to interact with the teachers who impart issues related with HIV/AIDS.It also proposes the cultural perceptions related to dietary practices that have unconstructive bearing on such educational praxis. Ceremonial and sexual practices that foreground community like that of multiple partners cause further grounds for infection and breeds detrimental impact on women .Author reflects on the representation of widows and rituals as stigma within the exclusionary realm of politics. The chapter“The Moral Tensions of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa”discusses seminal books by Nicoli Nattrass,Joseph B.R.Gaie, Sana Koketso Mmolai, and Johny Steinberg which informs the individual and public moral concerns that generate discourse on the access and exclusion from information and knowledge regarding HIV epidemic.

The empirical baseline is complemented with the experiential intersections of the communities in sub-Saharan Africa.Theoretical realm of this book is enriched by the rich comparative analysis of Afro-American and Eurocentric philosophical investigations.This book may be helpful to social theorists and activists who seek a nunaced understanding of moral education.


Sharlene Swartz and Monica Taylor, eds.,

Moral Education in Sub-Saharan Africa:Culture,Economics, Conflict, and AIDS, 2011, New York:Routledge; 140pp. (including index): ISBN978-0415613408



Sanil M Neelakandan teaches at Faculty of Law,SRM University,Sonepat,Haryana

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Africa is a less developed continent socially, financially and educationally. The present book review on ‘ moral’ education is a rarely discussed topic in many academic institute’s. The analysis of the book compels one to read and acquaint with various social and cultural practices of sub- Saharan Africa and influences of modern world order on tribals in their cultural and religious outlook. This book with selections of various essays on different countries, brings out diversity of views on moral perception and education. This would add to the understanding of African educational situation more clearly