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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 Student Affairs
2009-12-08

The University of the Free State (UFS) has appointed Mr Rudi Buys as its new dean of Student Affairs.

Mr Buys is the Chief Executive Officer of iGubu Leadership Agency and has in this capacity been involved with student affairs by holding key clients in the higher education sector, including amongst others, the Universities of the Free State, Stellenbosch and Pretoria.

“Mr Buys has provided consultancy services to the Student Affairs Department of the UFS and he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the system, the climate and challenges. He also enjoys the trust of our students, is accepted by students across all races and has a sound knowledge of current student issues. He has a passion for youth/student leadership development and I am very pleased that he is joining this university,” says Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS.

"I consider the appointment an immense privilege – joining a higher education institution such as the UFS with a proud heritage and an even more significant future. I relish the opportunity to join the team at the UFS in realising the vision of an internationally renowned and socially responsive institution. I wish to thank the University for this vote of confidence and offer my utmost commitment in honouring the appointment. As the UFS has inspired me, I'm convinced that the institution will inspire our nation,” says Mr Buys.

Mr Buys has also worked as a Commissioner at the Western Cape Youth Commission, was spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Ministry and is a founding member of a number of civil society initiatives. His academic qualifications include an M.Theologia, B.Divinitatis (Hons Eq) and B. Theologia.

He will take up office on 4 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  
4 December 2009
 
 Mr Rudi Buys

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