AGCLE’s flagship course receives positive worldwide attention

Professor Pedro Tabensky, Director of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics
Professor Pedro Tabensky, Director of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics

The Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics (AGCLE) at Rhodes University recently received a glowing appraisal for its flagship course, IiNtheto zoBomi, amid an increase in international attention.

The course was jointly assessed by Professor Kathy Luckett, Director of the Humanities Education Development Unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Philosophy Professor Ann Cahill, from Elon University in North Carolina.

In the review, they said that “AGCLE and Rhodes University should do everything in their power to preserve, value, and expand the course and its underlying philosophical and pedagogical models.[…] It is a course that speaks to the context of Rhodes University - one of poverty, exploitation and rurality - and thus to the lived experiences of the majority of its students.”

Professors Luckett and Cahill appreciated experiencing the different components of the course (lecture, movie, service learning site visit, and tutorial/discussion group), and found their meetings with staff members and other stakeholders to be enlightening.

They believe the course should be viewed as an important contribution to the transformation of teaching Philosophy in South Africa, that is one way of ‘decolonising’ the study of philosophy.

The reviewers praised the remarkable consistency of vision that exists across all members of the AGCLE, as well as the tutors. “The uniqueness of IiNtheto zoBomi, combined with its obvious appeal to students, is an asset to Rhodes University,” they said.

According to the reviewers, this course is deeply creative, courageous and deeply philosophical. “And while its instructors may sometimes feel as if they are struggling against the tide of dominant forms of philosophical instruction, they should take heart: there is a growing community of like-minded philosophers internationally who are taking up similar questions in similar modes,” Professors Luckett and Cahill said in the review.

IiNtheto zoBomi started to gain international traction in 2018, after it was adapted by Professor Pedro Tabensky, Director of AGCLE, to serve as a UN learning module in response to the Doha Declaration, which aims to reduce corruption globally.

IiNtheto zoBomi addresses ethical matters using, among other things, social psychology and behavioural economics,” explained Prof Tabensky. “The UN became interested in what we do, and invited me to design a module.”

Since the module’s release, it has been ‘localised’ for Latin America and Africa (Rwanda and Kenya). Furthermore, it was showcased in Greece, Ghana and Austria, as part of the UN initiative. Prof Tabensky is currently at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, for a workshop on the UN module he developed.

“I could not have done this without the help of Dr Lindsay Kelland,” Prof Tabensky said. Dr Kelland is a Senior Lecturer at AGCLE.

Several universities and foundations have expressed interest in the pedagogical work of the AGCLE in addition to the Central European University, including the University of Colorado, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropies. The AGCLE has recently partnered with Professor Luckett to develop a similar course at UCT.

“You cannot separate education and ethics. This is a view defended by many, including Socrates, John Dewey and Paulo Freire, and it is at the heart of the work we do,” concluded Prof Tabensky.