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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 Council elects a new Chairperson
2009-11-22

Judge Ian van der Merwe

The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) elected Judge Ian van der Merwe as its new Chairperson at its last meeting for this year on Friday, 20 November 2009.

Judge Van der Merwe is an alumnus of the UFS and has been a member of the Council since 9 March 2007. In accepting his appointment, Judge Van der Merwe said that he was honoured and humbled to lead a Council of this calibre. “I will always do what is in the best interest of the UFS and, together with the Council, I will work towards making it an autonomous institution of academic excellence that is non-racial, non-sexist, and where diversity is cherished,” he said.

The election of a new Chairperson and the term of the Chancellor were among the matters discussed during yesterday’s meeting.

Dr Franklin Sonn will retire as Chancellor on 31 December 2009 and the term of office of the current Chairperson of Council, Judge Faan Hancke, will also expire on 31 December 2009. Dr Sonn has been Chancellor since 7 February 2003 and Judge Hancke has been Chairperson of the Council since 1 June 2001.

“I am elated that someone of Judge Van der Merwe’s stature has been elected as Chairperson and will provide him with my full support,” said Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor.

The Council paid tribute to Judge Hancke for the time he dedicated to the UFS, as well as for his leadership, guidance and wisdom to take the institution to where it stands in the current phase of its history. The Council also recognised Judge Hancke for, amongst others, his decision to appoint Prof. Jansen as the first black Rector and Vice-Chancellor, for his role in the implementation of the Transformation Plan and the policy to increase diversity in residences at the UFS, as well as his contribution to the growth of black students.

Judge Hancke thanked the Council for their support and assistance during his term and congratulated Judge van der Merwe on his appointment. “I wish Prof. Jansen and his management team well and hope that they will have the wisdom to solve the problems the institution is facing so that they can focus on the core business of the UFS namely its academia. I know the University can make a tremendous contribution to the country,” he said.

The Council also welcomed the following new members who were present at the meeting: Mr Pule Makgoe, MEC for Education in the Free State; Mr Ndaba Ntsele, Chief Executive Officer of the Pamodzi Group and Mr Willem Louw, Managing Director of Sasol Technology.

The new Chancellor will be elected as soon as the proposed statute is approved by the Council in 2010 and published in the Government Gazette. Prof. Jansen will act as Chancellor for the interim period from 1 January 2010.

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  
21 November 2009
 

 

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