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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

UFS appoints a Dean of Education
2009-11-06

 Prof. Dennis Francis,   Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS).


Prof. Dennis Francis from the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS) as from 4 January 2010. He is the first dean of this faculty since it was established at the UFS earlier this year.

Prof. Francis has worked at the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 2002. Prior to his appointment at the UFS he was a Professor in the Faculty of Education and Head of the School of Social Science Education at that institution.

“I am overwhelmed and excited at the same time. Mostly, I feel privileged and honoured to be joining the Faculty of Education,” he said of his appointment.
“The Faculty of Education is newly constituted and there are endless possibilities and potential. So I am really excited to be here.”

“What attracted me to the UFS is the leadership and vision of Prof. Jonathan Jansen, the emergent energy that is here, and the possibilities for transformation and change that exist. But also the warmth and graciousness of the people that I have interacted with,” he said.

Prof. Francis has taught and supervised Master’s and Doctoral students in the area of social justice education, identity studies and sexuality education. He has published numerous articles in refereed national and international journals, chapters in edited collections, and four edited journal special issues. He is also the author of Between Race; Beyond Race. Prof. Francis is the current guest editor of the South African Journal of Higher Education Special Issue on Transformation and Social Cohesion in Higher Education.

He has delivered conference presentations in his fields of research at international conferences in India, USA, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Malaysia, Mauritius, UK and South Africa, as well as a further fifteen papers at national conferences. At three of these conferences he was an invited speaker. In 2008 he was granted researcher status by the National Research Fund.

Prof. Francis is currently on the editorial boards of two journals and an advisor on two international education conference committees. He also serves as the Chairperson of the Kenton Education Association.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Deputy Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
5 November 2009
 

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