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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

Three candidates to make public appearances
2009-02-06

Statement by Judge Faan Hancke, Chairperson of the Council of the University ff the Free State

The Selection Committee for the appointment of Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS) has short-listed three candidates for the position. They are:

  • Prof. Jonathan Jansen, former Dean of Education at the University of Pretoria;
  • Prof. Herman van Schalkwyk, Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS; and
  • Prof. Nthabiseng Ogude, Vice-Rector of the University of Pretoria for the position.

On Monday, 16 February 2009 the three candidates will introduce themselves to the university community at a public session to present their vision and view of their role as rector and vice-chancellor of the UFS. This will take place at 16:00 in the Odeion on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.

The Senate will vote on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 for the three candidates in terms of appointability and preference and the Institutional Forum meets on Thursday, 19 February 2009 to advise Council regarding the appointment.

The UFS Council will meet on Friday, 13 March 2009 to make a final decision.

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  
6 February 2009
 

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