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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

British Columbia University staff visit the UFS
2010-02-09

Standing, from the left, are: Dr Dewald Steyn (Internal Medicine), Lyndsay O'Hara (UBC), Justin Lo Chang (UBC), Prof. Christo Heunis (Acting Director: Centre for Health Systems Research and Development), Prof. Lucius Botes (Dean: Faculty of Humanities), Dr Katinka de Wet (CHSR&D) and Dr Annie de la Querra (Registrar: Community Medicine).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe


Representatives from the Centre for International Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently visited the Centre for Health Systems Research and Development (CHSR&D) in the Faculty of the Humanities. The University of the Free State and the UBC are working together on two research projects. The first project, for which funding has been approved, will measure a new Health Information System that is used in hospitals. The Department of Computer Science and Informatics is also part of this project. The second project will be aimed at capacity building in the Free State health-care sector around issues of occupational health. For this project the CHSR&D will work in close cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine, the Department of Computer Science and Informatics, the Free State Department of Health, and various hospitals. Pictured seated, from the left, are: Prof. Jerry Spiegel (Director: Centre for International Health, UBC), Lucky Nophale (Provincial Occupational Health Unit), Dr Kerry Uebel (Free State Department of Health) and Prof. Annalee Yassi (UBC). Standing, from the left, are: Dr Dewald Steyn (Internal Medicine), Lyndsay O'Hara (UBC), Justin Lo Chang (UBC), Prof. Christo Heunis (Acting Director: Centre for Health Systems Research and Development), Prof. Lucius Botes (Dean: Faculty of Humanities), Dr Katinka de Wet (CHSR&D) and Dr Annie de la Querra (Registrar: Community Medicine).
 

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