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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

Department Psychology of Education hosts an empowering workshop
2009-11-30

The Department of Psychology of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS), in partnership with the department of Inclusive Education (Xhariep district), recently held a workshop on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein to empower students, educators, departmental officials and parents to address the needs of learners diagnosed with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as learners infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. Keynote speakers at this workshop included Dr Dawid Griessel (Paediatrics, UFS), Dr Annette Prins (Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development, UFS), Ms Santjie Vermaas (Occupational therapist, Motheo District Support Team) and Ms Jane Jarvis (Education Psychologist, specialising in ADHD).

The workshop, under the theme: “Empowering educators to cater for the diverse needs of learners in their classes”, was attended by more than 350. This first initiative has proved so successful that there have been countless requests for a follow-up workshop. At the workshop, from the left, front, were: Ms Santjie Vermaas (Occupational Therapist), Ms Sally York (Learning facilitator: Xhariep District) and Mr T.S. Tsipane (CES: Xhariep District). Back: Prof Johnnie Hay (Departmental Chairperson, Psychology of Education), Dr Dawid Griessel (Department of Paediatrics, UFS), Dr A. Prins (Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development ), Mr P.W. Terblanche (Chief Educational Specialist: Xhariep District), Dr Annalene van Staden (Department of Psychology of Education)
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

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