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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

Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences gives a warm welcome
2010-02-17

From left: Sanet Snoer and Elanie van der Westhuizen, two of the coordinators of the Academic Support Programme at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.
Photo: Supplied


The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently held a welcoming event for their B.Com four year curriculum students.
The event focused on the Academic Support Programme that is initiated by the Teaching and Learning division of the faculty. The programme is coordinated by Dr Liezel Massyn, Sanet Snoer and Elanie van der Westhuizen from the Faculty and a large group of around 350 students attended the welcoming event.

According to Me Snoer, the aim of the support programme is to improve throughput rates amongst students. A programme such as this one will help all the students form part of an ever-growing academic culture.

At the event the importance and purpose of the programme was put under the spotlight.
One of the objectives of the programme is to help the students learn how to apply the skills that they learn in the Skills for Lifelong Learning module on the content of two academic modules (Human Resource Management and Business Management).

The students were introduced to the facilitators and faculty staff involved. They had the opportunity to ask questions about any unclear aspects of the programme. Afterwards, the students received guidance whilst registering for the support sessions.
- Lize du Plessis

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