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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

First superannuation lecture delivered at the UFS
2009-11-18

Proff. Voet du Plessis (left) and Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law.
Photo: Stephen Collett


Prof. Voet du Plessis from the Department of Mercantile Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently presented the first superannuation lecture at the UFS.

Prof. Du Plessis retired this year after 41 years at the UFS. This milestone event coincides with the faculty’s celebration of a century of excellence in legal education under the theme “Iurisprudentia 100”.

With his superannuation lecture Prof. du Plessis gave a view on the future of worker participation in enterprises. Thirty years ago during his inaugural lecture he discussed a similar topic: Worker participation in the management organs of a company.

According to him there is currently no worker participation in management organs in South African companies. The South African legislation does give extended abilities and protection for workers. In spite of this protection South African legislation falls short with regard to a possible say workers may have in or influence that workers may exercise over decisions taken in the workplace and which affect them as workers directly.

In terms of the right to information and consultation he gave the following suggestions to improve the current system of worker participation in decisions which affect them as workers:

“Serious attention must be given to the changes to the current Labour Relations Act, 1995 for the compulsory establishment of a workplace forum in each workplace with 50 or more workers, to oblige the employer to take the initiative with the establishment of a workplace forum; and to give to registered trade unions who are recognised in the workplace the sole right to nominate candidates for the workplace forum,” said Prof. du Plessis. He also proposed that attention be given to a Southern African Work Committee. An increase in world wide economic operations through multi national companies with head quarters abroad where decisions about the misfortunes of workers in the Southern African region are taken makes such a decision essential.
 

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