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Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

dti announces nominees for 2008 Science and Technology Awards
2008-10-03

 

At the announcement of the nominees for the 2008 dti Technology Awards were, from the left: Prof. Schalk Louw, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mr Sipho Zikode, Deputy Director General at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), Dr Romilla Maharaj, Executive Director: Human and Institutional Capacity Development at the National Research Foundation (NRF), and Mr Ephraim Baloyi, Director: Innovation and Technology at the dti.

Mr Michael Chung, master’s student in Plant Pathology, explaining some of the research conducted in the Centre for Plant Health Management (Cephma).

Prof. Schalk Louw, Department of Zoology and Entomology, and Mr Ephraim Baloyi, Director: Innovation and Technology at the dti in the Cephma laboratory.

   
dti announces nominees for 2008 Science and Technology Awards

The Department of Trade and Industry’s (dti) Deputy Director-General, Mr Sipho Zikode, yesterday announced the nominees for the 2008 dti Technology Awards which will take place on 30 and 31 October in Bloemfontein.

The purpose of these annual awards is to recognise those researchers, private institutions and students who performed well in terms of innovation and technology development, says Mr Ephraim Baloyi, Director: Innovation and Technology at the dti.

The awards are a combination of the Annual Awards of the different dti programmes supporting technology in industry. They are the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII), administered by the Industrial Development Corporation, and seda Technology Programme (stp), administered by the Small Enterprise Development Agency.

The dti delegation also visited the laboratory of Prof. Schalk Louw of the UFS to view the work of this former dti Technology Awards recipient. Prof. Louw is a member of the UFS Centre for Plant Health Management (Cephma) team that won a 2007 Technology Award for groundbreaking research work on kenaf (a South African commercial fibre crop used, amongst others, in the automotive industry). The research of the Cephma team is supported by the NRF’s THRIP programme.

The awards are hosted in a different province each year to increase awareness around the dti’s technology support for researchers, small enterprises, large industries and business incubators.

Media Release
Issued by: Leonie Bolleurs
Tel: 051 401 2707
Cell: 083 645 5853
3 October 2008

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