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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
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

New Rector and Chancellor inaugurated at UFS
2003-02-07

NEW RECTOR AND CHANCELLOR INAUGURATED AT UFS

 Newly inaugurated Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Prof Frederick Fourie, has recommitted the university to the service of the broader community, through the pursuit of academic excellence and contributing to building a non-racial, democratic and just South Africa.

To make this a reality Prof Fourie proposed a social contract or accord between university constituencies and the community to chart the way forward to establishing a university that can meet the challenges of a developing democracy.

Prof Fourie was speaking at his inauguration ceremony on the Bloemfontein campus, where the former Ambassador to the United States, Dr Franklin Sonn, was also inaugurated as Chancellor of the UFS.

The twin inauguration ceremony – the first in the history of the UFS - was attended by former President Nelson Mandela, Education Minister, Kader Asmal, Free State Premier Winki Direko, and the executive mayor of Mangaung, Mr Pappie Mokoena, who all endorsed the appointments as evidence of the transformation of the UFS.

According to Prof Fourie, the greatest contribution that any university could make to social and economic development in South Africa was by being an excellent university that encouraged critical inquiry, scientific knowledge as well as community service.

“So whilst we cherish and foster the continuity of the university as part of the ageold international tradition of universities, this University embraces its particular role in this country now, embraces the changes in the form and scope of its role in this crucial period of our history. We are committed to making a real difference to the new nation,” he said.

His vision for the UFS was “to be a university of excellence, equity and innovation – a leader in research, teaching, community service, adult learning, transformation, non-racialism, non-sexism, multi-culturality and multilingualism – a contributor to our country and our continent’s growth and development – a truly South African university”.

Prof Fourie said the recent incorporation of the Qwaqwa campus of the University of the North into the University of the Free State, which is the first such incorporation to take place, would contribute to broadening access for poor communities to higher education. Introducing an innovation to the inauguration ceremony, Prof Fourie and the UFS staff pledged to their commitment to excellence and justice, quality and equity. Fourie is the 13th Rector of the University of the Free State, succeeding Prof. Stef Coetzee, and Dr Sonn is the 6th Chancellor, succeeding Ms Winkie Direko, Premier of the Free State.

In his inaugural address, Dr Sonn said the significance of today’s ceremony was that the UFS - as a former institution of the Afrikaner – had chosen to walk the path of justice and not merely survival. “This university has seemingly liberated itself. It is inclusively South African.

He said the academic community must play its role of vigilance and not indifference”. Referring to the stature of former president Mandela in international affairs, Dr Sonn said: “We must bring the weight ot science and critical analysis and interpretation to bear in support of Madiba and other moral giants.”
 

 

Inauguration Speech by Prof. Frederick C.v.N. Fourie  (PDF format)

Inauguration Speech by Dr Franklin A. Sonn (PDF format)

Statement by the Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal (PDF format)

Speech by Prof. Viljoen (PDF format)

Speech by Executive Mayor Mokoena - Mangaung Local Municipality (PDF format)

 

 

 

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