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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

Department of Agricultural Economics and agri-business join forces
2009-12-01

Some of the guests who attended the Department of Agricultural Economics' half-century celebration dinner were, from the left: Ms Chrisna van Heerden from Cape Wools; Mr Gielie Swart from Corporate Guarantee; Mr Jaco Heckroodt from VKB (Vrystaat Koöperasie Beperk) in Reitz; Mr Arno van Vuuren from NWK Beperk (Noord-Wes Koöperasie); Prof. Johan Willemse, Departmental Chairperson of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the UFS; and Ms Marcine Morsavel from GWK Beperk (Griekwaland-Wes Koöperasie).
Photo: Stephen Collett

The Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of the Free State (UFS) launched a bursary programme to support students studying Agricultural Economics during its recent half-centenary celebrations.

More than half a million Rands were collected from various agri-businesses at this prestigious event in order to support approximately 16 Agricultural Economics students from 2010 onwards.

“The Department is proud of the past 50 years’ training of students for agriculture in the fields of research, governance, banking and the agri-business environment and we have launched the bursary programme in order to position the University closer to agri-businesses,” said Prof. Johan Willemse, Departmental Chairperson of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the UFS.

The agri-businesses, who will act as sponsors, also benefit from the project, because they are afforded the opportunity to identify promising Agricultural Economics students as potential employees and to expose them to the activities of the businesses by means of holiday work. Upon completion of his/her studies, the student will already be fairly familiar with the circumstances of the specific agri-business and loyalty towards the business will already have been established.

Students who major in Agricultural Economics may apply for the bursary programme.

Agri-businesses that have already agreed to act as sponsors are Omnia Fertilizer, Pioneer Foods Pty, Suid-Wes Koöperasie Beperk, Corporate Guarantee, GWK Beperk (Griekwaland-Wes Koöperasie), VKB (Vrystaat Koöperasie Beperk), the National Woolgrowers Association and NWK Beperk (Noord-Wes Koöperasie).

More information can be obtained by phoning Ms Marie Engelbrecht on 051 401 9054.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
1 December 2009

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