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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

Faculty of Law establishes a Centre for Labour Law
2009-12-02

Here at a recent certificate ceremony for the students in Labour Law are Prof. Voet du Plessis, Ms Kotie Prinsloo (middle) from Netcare who received the Certificate in Labour Law with a distinction and Ms Alet Ellis from the Department of Private Law at the UFS.
Photo: Stephen Collett

 The establishment of a Centre for Labour Law in the Faculty of Law was recently officially approved by the Council of the University of the Free State (UFS).

This centre aims to promote teaching and research in labour law at the UFS and to nationally and internationally establish collaboration with centres and institutes of labour law.

The first certificate course in Labour Law was presented in 2001 when a need was identified from persons who not necessary qualified for a LLB. An advanced course in Labour Law followed in 2004 and a postgraduate diploma in Labour Law followed in 2007. Since 2001, a total of 1 400 certificates have been awarded to students who successfully completed the certificate course and the advanced course in Labour Law.

“Where Labour Law is already to a greater degree functioning independently, the already existing operations will now be formally grouped in a centre,” said Prof. Du Plessis, acting head of the Centre for Labour Law at the UFS.

Apart from the Main Campus, the certificate course is also being presented in Qwaqwa and in Welkom. Distance learning is also provided for.

The official launch of the centre will take place early in next year. The board as well as the advisory panel, existing of experts from outside the university, will also then be appointed.

This centre can also be seen as one of the faculty’s community service arms,” said Prof. Du Plessis. The centre amongst others gives to persons who not have university admission the opportunity to study and to qualify themselves in their work. If a person completed all the certificate courses in Labour Law, he will be able to qualify for the postgraduate diploma in Labour Law with the recognition of prior learning process. Since the presentation of the last mentioned course in 2007, approximately 120 students have successfully completed this course.

“I am thankful that we are at this point where the Centre for Labour Law is officially approved. It is a great milestone for the Department of Mercantile Law as well as the Faculty of Law at the UFS,” said Prof. Du Plessis.
 

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
2 December 2009

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