What do Service Learning and the notion “Human Capabilities” have in common?

Prof Melanie Walker from the newly established Centre for Higher Education and Capabilities Research (CHECaR) at the University of the Free State presented an engaging session to service learning practitioners around inclusive learning and teaching endeavours, based on the human capabilities approach.

Prof Walker, presented a conceptualisation of human capabilities applied to Higher Education (HE) practices. Although the idea is being globally taken up for its relevance to HE, it is a relatively new concept in our own South African context.

During the discussions it became evident that human development requires an enabling environment for communities to live creative lives in order to broaden their choices. Such modern realities challenge universities to educate and train students who do not only excel in their respective professions but who are also equipped for engaging in a global development discourse, for example, as emphasised by the Millennium Development Goals.

Since both Service Learning and CHECaR call attention to the concept of human capabilities, they are able to align students towards the demands of the 21st century through building capacity in individuals and communities for transformative societies. A specific contribution offered by Service Learning would be to produce students with values, knowledge and skills to prepare them for the realities of life, thus supporting the human capabilities approach which promotes capacities such as informed vision, resilience, integrity, emotional reflexivity, confidence, solidarity, knowledge and skills.

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