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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

Academic’s expertise sought in Ghana
2009-02-13

Mr Philemon Akach (pictured), a senior lecturer in the Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State (UFS), will visit Ghana from 14 to 21 February 2009 to train deaf people in that country in using South African Sign Language (SASL) multi-media grammar teaching materials in the teaching of Ghanaian Sign Language (GSL). Ghana intends to use these materials as reference in its teaching of GSL - the material can only be used as a guide, since sign language is not universal. Mr Akach has been instrumental in the development of GSL since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sent him on a fact-finding mission regarding the education of deaf children in Ghana in 1993. Since then, he has trained interpreters as well as parents and teachers of deaf children in Ghana. He has also guided the GSL Dictionary Project.
Photo: Supplied 

 

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