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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

Centenary celebrations of Faculty of Law reach a highlight
2009-11-19

At the occasion were, from the left: the Honourable Judge Ian van der Merwe; the Honorable Judge Faan Hancke; former Judge of Appeal Joos Hefer; and Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS.
Photo: Stephen Collett


The Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) reached the highlight of its celebrations of a century of excellence in legal education, training and research under the theme “Iurisprudentia 100” at a gala dinner held on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein last week.

At this spectacular occasion Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty handed a Cum Laude award to Judge Faan Hancke, Chairperson of the UFS Council and Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Law of Procedure and Law of Evidence. Judge Hancke is the fourth recipient of this award. Judge Hancke received the award for his excellent contributions towards the building of the Faculty of Law and the UFS.

According to Prof. Henning the faculty has a distinguished history of excellence in theoretical as well as practical education and training, which can be traced as far back as to the establishment of the Grey University College in 1904. During this modest beginning the seed was planted for the establishment of the Faculty of Law, which gained momentum when Bloemfontein became the judicial capital of South Africa in 1910.

Other highlights in legal education at the UFS include, amongst others, 1909 when Adv. Percy Fisher, a BA LLB graduate from the University of Cambridge became the first law lecturer to receive a permanent appointment. In 1918 the first LLB degrees were awarded to SP le Roux, later Minister of Agriculture, CR Swart, later Minister of Justice, Governor-General, State President and the first Chancellor of the UFS, and Walther Leinberger, an attorney in town.

In 1945 Law became an independent faculty and in 1948 the first full-time professor, Dr JP Verloren van Themaat was appointed. After Prof. Van Themaat, six deans followed before the appointment of Prof. Henning.

Over the last ten years the faculty has managed to build many international contacts with international leaders in the legal arena, including the Universities of London, Cambridge, Sussex, Tilburg, Kentucky, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Utrecht and Deacon.

The faculty prides itself on the fact that he has prepared many students as well as lecturers who later became presidents, ministers, administrators, judges of appeal, judges and rectors. The faculty has 95 staff members and 2 400 students, of which 1 800 are postgraduate students.

National as well as international leaders in the legal field congratulated the faculty on its 100-year celebrations. Messages of congratulations were also received from, amongst others, universities, legal practices and the government.

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  
18 November 2009
 

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