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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

Curtains fall on Darwin lecture series
2010-02-03

The University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with the Central University of Technology and the National Museum in Bloemfontein, will host the final lecture of the Charles Darwin lecture series entitled "The story of life and survival" as part of the 200-years celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday on Thursday, 11 February 2010.

The lecture titled Trends in evolution and their bearing on the future of humankind will be presented by Prof. Bruce Rubidge and Prof. Terence McCarthy from the University of the Witwatersrand and co-authors of the book The Story of Earth and Life.

Last year, when the year-long lecture series started, several lectures were presented by academics from various departments at the UFS.
Prof. Marian Tredoux and Mr Johan Loock from the Department of Geology presented lectures on The origin of our solar system and The geological evolution of our planet: the first billion years, respectively.

"Transitions and extinctions" was the topic of another lecture presented by Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink, a paleontologist at the National Museum and affiliated to the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the UFS. She discussed the causes of mass extinctions and their effects on the world's organisms.

The Department of Genetics also made their contribution to this lecture series in the form of two lectures on the genetic foundation of evolution presented by the Head of the Department, Prof. Johan Spies and Prof. Paul Grobler, an Associate Professor in the Department.

Next followed lectures on the evolution of the information and communication technology that were presented by the Departments of Communication Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science and Informatics, which focused on communication in a manufacturing environment, the knowledge explosion and the broadband universe.

This final lecture of the series will be presented in the CR Swart Auditorium on the UFS Main Campus at 18:00. Limited seats are available and bookings can be made by contacting Ms Isabel Human at humanci@ufs.ac.za or 051 401 2427 before or on Monday, 8 February 2010.

Media Release:
Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
2 February 2010

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