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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

Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French impresses at conference
2010-02-24

 
The five staff members from the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the UFS who recently made history at a conference held at the University of Pretoria (UP) were, from the left, front: Ms Swart, Prof. Steyn, Dr Van den Berg; back: Mr Senekal and Prof. Van Coller. Photo: Supplied


Five staff members from the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently made history at a conference at the University of Pretoria (UP). The department presented the most papers coming from one department and university at a conference entitled “Patryspoort na buite”. Ms Corlietha Swart, Prof. Jaap Steyn, Dr Cilliers van den Berg, Mr Burgert Senekal and Prof. Hennie van Coller all presented excellent papers at the conference.

According to Ms Swart, three of the five papers focused on different aspects of the author and linguist, G.R. von Wielligh. The Von Wielligh papers took up a full session of the conference.

With Von Wielligh’s 150th commemoration in 2009, the National Afrikaans Literature and Research Centre (NALN), under the auspices of the curator Mr Otto Liebenberg, decided to research this underrated figure’s contribution. Swart’s paper titled “Landmeter Von Wielligh op ongekarteerde taallandskap”, took a look at this figure as a linguist. Prof. Steyn focused on “G.R. Von Wielligh as historikus van die ‘eerste’ Afrikaanse taalbeweging” and Prof. Van Coller’s paper concentrated on “G.R. von Wielligh se bydrae tot die voorsiening van Afrikaanse leesstof en die kweek van ’n leeskultuur: ’n literêrhistoriese perspektief op sy skeppende prosa”.

Dr. Van den Berg read a paper on “Die transmissie van trauma: ‘Tralievader’ deur Carl Friedman” and Mr Senekal’s paper gave an overview of “Die representasie van vervreemding in hedendaagse Afrikaanse protesmusiek”.
- Lize du Plessis

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