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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

"Boer Manie se melk word suur" no sour story
2010-02-17

Pictured, from the left, front, are the actors: Keogh (Boer Manie), Kotzé (Bella de Vries) and Strydom (Neelsie). Back: Fourie (Tersia Tandeheks) – Lize du Plessis
Photo: Lize du Plessis

The Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently presented a jam-packed Drama Festival. The festival gave actors, directors and script-writers on campus the opportunity to show what they are capable of.

Heinrich Keogh and Ilne Fourie combined forces to present a production suitable for young and old. “Boer Manie se melk word suur” tells the story of Farmer Manie, his son Neelsie, his cow Bella and the evil Tersia Tandeheks, a witch who tries to turn the entire world’s milk sour by using magic. Her conniving plans create chaos on Madeliefie Vlei, where all the characters live.

The four actors, Heinrich Keogh (Boer Manier), Ilne Fourie (Tersia Tandeheks), Mart Kotzé (Bella de Vries) and Walter Strydom (Neelsie) clearly have a passion for acting. They climb into the bodies of their characters – something they have to learn when studying at the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts.

According to Keogh, who also directed “Boer Manie se melk word suur”, the play receives positive feedback.

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