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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

Faculty of Law congratulated on 100 years of Iurisprudentia
2009-11-05

Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS and Prof. Barry Rider from the Jesus College at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Photo: Stephen Collett

This year the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) is celebrating a century of excellence in legal education under the theme “Iurisprudentia 100”. A number of prominent leaders in the international legal arena congratulated the faculty on this milestone achievement.

Prof. Harry Rajak, Emeritus Professor from the Sussex Law School at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom communicated his heartiest congratulations to the faculty. “It has been my great privilege and pleasure to have had, for many years now, a close association with the Faculty of Law of the UFS. I have enjoyed several visits to the Law Faculty, during which I have benefited enormously from the vibrant intellectual, scholarly and extremely friendly atmosphere which you have all created, as well as from the enthusiasm and intelligence of your students. I look forward to the continuation for many more years of this important and fruitful connection,” he said.

Prof. Barry Rider from the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the Jesus College at Cambridge University in the UK also congratulated and expressed his admiration towards the faculty. “The reputation for excellence in the teaching of law and in its scholarly research that your faculty has attained both in the Republic and internationally is a testament to the outstanding efforts and commitment of so many generations of scholars in Bloemfontein. I have been extraordinarily privileged to be associated with your faculty. The achievements of your faculty are truly impressive,” he said.

The faculty also received wishes of congratulations from Prof. Thomas Hurst, Research Scholar and Professor of Law from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida in the United States of America. “The UFS has established itself as a world renowned leader in legal education,” he said.

Mr Anton Trichardt from Londsdale Chambers, Melbourne Australia also conveyed his best wishes to the faculty. “Your Faculty of Law has indeed been an example of excellence in legal education, training and research. The Centre for Business Law and its monograph series has been an unrivalled trend-setter in law,” he said.

Old Mutual also conveyed its wishes of congratulations.
 

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