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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

UFS appoints a dean for the Humanities
2008-12-08

The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) has recently approved the appointment of Prof. Lucius Botes as the new dean of the Faculty of the Humanities during its last meeting of the year. He will succeed Prof. Gerhardt de Klerk, who will be retiring at the end of the year.

Prof. Botes is currently the Director of the Centre for Development Support (CDS) at the UFS and is also Programme Director of the Postgraduate Programme in Development Studies, which he initiated some nine years ago, and has produced more than 170 alumni from 20 different countries.

Prof. Botes has been an employee of the UFS since 1983 and was appointed as Director of the CDS in 1999. He has a Ph.D. in Sociology and a strong research background.

He was among others a member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council of the Free State from 2001-2005 and associate academic fellow of the World Economic Forum from 2001-2006. Prof. Botes is currently Director of the International Institute for Development and Ethics (IIDE) and the International Association for Community Development, to name a few.

“The Faculty of the Humanities is a very large and diverse faculty. It presents a huge leadership and management challenge. I will strive to lead the faculty to a next phase of excellence in terms of quality teaching and learning, research and community-service-learning outputs. It is important that the faculty should grow and develop in such a way that it will be regarded, especially by both outside role players and our partners, as a pivotal asset of knowledge, human and social capital,” said Prof. Botes.

Prof. Botes will commence his duties as dean on 1 March 2009. Prof. Engela Pretorius, Vice-Dean of the faculty, will act as dean in the mean time.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
8 December 2008
 

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