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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

Chakalaka can have side effects for these patients
2010-06-24

Chakalaka is a sauce many South Africans cannot imagine a meal without, but research at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) has shown that it can have serious side effects and even compromise the treatment of leukaemia patients.

Prof. Vernon Louw from the Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty says that tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are a new group of drugs providing targeted therapy for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). It vastly contributes to the survival of patients, but it has side effects like vasodilatation. Research has shown that spices like chakalaka may aggravate vasodilatation (widening of veins) with patients on these drugs.

“These spices produce serious oedema (water retention) and headaches. We have found that discontinuing the intake of spices allows some patients to maintain therapeutic doses of TKIs.” Chakalaka contains mainly garlic and chilli.

CML represents up to 20% of all leukaemia patients in South Africa and up to 450 new cases are reported every year.

In the study symptoms of severe headache and oedema disappeared within days of discontinuing the use of chakalaka.

Prof. Louw says it is important for oncologists to ask their patients about their intake of spices and garlic when they are on TKIs. It is also advisable to enquire about the use of complementary alternative medicine as the interaction of these medicines in cancer treatment is not known.

Media Release

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

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