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18.7.2023 | Effie-Ling Heslop |

Embracing Ubuntu: Building a Better Future of Tolerance, Compassion, and Empathy

In an increasingly interconnected world, one might expect tolerance and empathy to flourish, transcending the barriers of race, religion, and ideology. Unfortunately, there has been a growing trend of intolerance and division. Prejudice, discrimination, and the inability to understand and embrace diverse perspectives have entered our communities, threatening social harmony and progress.
"Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, who care for and protect our people." - Nelson Mandela

During COVID-19, hate and intolerance of others, especially against foreigners, came to an all-time high. Now as we have moved into our post-COVID age, we have a responsibility to educate and nurture our children with strong values of tolerance, compassion and civic empowerment. We spoke with Mfanafuthi Mbongwe, Managing Director of Play Africa, whose innovation has been working on compassion education and empowerment.

Play Africa, part of our 2023 Global Collection and shortlisted again for the 2024 collection, has found a unique and fun way to educate and empower our youth through play. The initiative is located in South Africa with a permanent space on Constitution Hill. They work with school groups and families to create an open and safe environment for children aged 0 to 12 to learn about numerous subjects and concepts through play. For Nelson Mandela Day, Mfanafuthi wants to highlight two of their programs: Bridges of Peace and My Constitution. 

Bridges of Peace is a program managed by Mfanafuthi, who stated that “pre-covid there were a lot of tensions with immigrants and xenophobia in South Africa ... We wanted to show our children that diversity is not a threat but a gift where we can learn from each other. That the power of our country is to be a country of tolerance”. 

There are four distinct stages in the Bridges of Peace program:

  1. Dialogue: An open discussion about their feelings, how seeing violence makes them feel, what makes them happy, what Ubuntu mean to them, and how they can best embody Ubuntu
  2. Children's Wall: A place where everyone can share their ideas and thoughts. The facilitators will then go through and read all of them.
  3. Let it Go: A crank shredder which allows the children can physically release their emotions. The shredded paper will then be used to make something beautiful.
  4. I See You: Children are tasked to draw a silhouette of another child.

Mfanafuthi explains that “from a silhouette you cannot tell whether they are Black, White or Asian. You can’t tell the colour of their hair or eyes, or what language they may speak. Through this we demonstrate that everyone is human and should be seen as just that”. 

"One of the ways we can build a better future for our children is by empowering them by allowing them to speak up for themselves." - Nelson Mandela

Mfanafuthi reminds us that South Africa is a country with a difficult history marked by violence and discrimination. Many of the children who participate in their programmes have firsthand experience or have witnessed such challenges. Recognising the significance of their voices, Play Africa strives to acknowledge children's perspectives, educate them about their rights, and engage them with policy making. Through their programme, My Constitution, they bring the large themes and conversations down to a level where children can understand and engage in a fun and meaningful way.

Play Africa works with many schools, bringing sessions to them and provides pop-up locations all around South Africa for those who need help to travel to Constitution Hill. They also provide free online materials, such as a curriculum for My Constitution, for people who want to bring their practices into their own homes and classrooms. 

This Nelson Mandela Day, we encourage everyone to do a good deed for someone and ask themselves how they can embody Ubuntu in their lives. Ubuntu is an old Zulu word meaning to be part of a whole, that we are only ourselves because of the people around us and so we need to put ourselves in each other's shoes. If you are interested to learn more about the different programs Play Africa arranges check out their website at

If you are also working on an educational programme addressing peace or civic education, we’d love to hear about it! Share your innovation for the Global Collection 2025