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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

Minister praises the Faculty of Law
2009-02-13

 
At the launch of the Faculty of Law at the UFS's celebration of 100 years of jurisprudence, under the theme "Iurisprudentia 100", were, from the left: Judge Faan Hancke, Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Criminal and Medical Law and Chairperson of the UFS Council, Judge Lex Mpati, President of the Highest Court of Appeal, Mr Surty, Judge Hendrik Musi, Judge President of the High Court of the Free State, and Prof. Henning.
Photo: Stephen Collett
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Enver Surty, has praised the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) for producing lawyers, academics, judges, etc. of great note.

Mr Surty was guest speaker this week on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein at the launch of the faculty’s celebration of a century of excellence in legal education, training and research at the UFS. The theme of the celebration is “Iurisprudentia 100”.

“The faculty has throughout its existence demonstrated its capability and capacity to produce scholars, legal practitioners, academics, judges, politicians etc, of great note. The university can take pride in the fact that, as an institution, you have done so well,” said Mr Surty.

Mr Surty said that our judiciary must be adequately qualified and it must be representative of our nation. “We must therefore have more aspiring judges in our midst and we must have a more representative judiciary – in race and gender. This is where an institution like the UFS can play an important role,” said Mr Surty.

Mr Surty also commented on the university’s engagement with its communities.
“The UFS has begun to recognise the importance of community engagement. Unless community engagement is part of your curricular activity we would not be able to produce the judges of the caliber we need who are better able to understand the social and economic context of our society,” he said.

According to Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS, the faculty has a distinguished history of excellence in theoretical and practical legal education and training, which can be traced as far back as the establishment of the Grey University College in 1904.

Over the years, student numbers grew considerably and today the faculty has over 2 700 graduate and postgraduate students.

“The faculty prides itself on the fact that some of its students and lecturers went on to hold some of the highest offices in the country. Under its alumni are state presidents, ministers of state, administrators, judges of appeal, judges, rectors, professors and lecturers at the UFS as well as at other universities, advocates, attorneys and legal advisors – in private practice as well as in government,” said Prof. Henning.

The faculty’s “Iurisprudentia 100” celebrations will take place throughout the year with activities such as breakfasts for the various alumni groups of the faculty and a series of inaugural lectures. Cum Laude awards will also be
handed to Judge Lex Mpati, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and Judge Louis Harms, Deputy President of the Supreme Court Appeal. The celebrations will be concluded in November with a prestige dinner.

Celebration programme:

26 February 2009: Visit by Prof. Fernand de Varennes (of the Murdoch Law School, Perth, Australia),
13 March 2009: Breakfast for all candidate attorneys
18 March 2009: Breakfast for judges and Cum Laude awards
15 May 2009: Breakfast for labour law certificate alumni
11 September 2009: Breakfast for diploma alumni (CFP)
16 October 2009: Breakfast for attorneys and advocates
9-12 November 2009: Inaugural and public lectures
13 November 2009: Centenary dinner

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  
18 February 2009

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