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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

UFS academics to present papers at Conference on Calvin Research
2010-07-05

Prof. Dolf Britz, Director: Jonathan Edwards Center Africa at the UFS, will be one of three UFS keynote speakers at the 10th International Congress on Calvin Research.
Photo: Provided


Three scholars from the University of the Free State (UFS) were invited to participate as keynote speakers at the 10th International Conference on Calvin Research that will be hosted by the UFS from 22-27 August 2010. 

“Hosting this conference is seen as an exceptional achievement since the conference represents an international, high-profiled and specialised research community where invitation to present research results is based on proven academic outputs, innovation and original research,” said Prof. Dolf Britz, Director: Jonathan Edwards Center Africa at the UFS. Prof. Britz will, as keynote speaker, present a paper on Calvin's exposition of a Biblical text that played a significant role in the ‘Freedom Struggle’ in South Africa.

The programme for the Conference on Calvin Research also provides for two workshops specially designed for postgraduate students. This will be facilitated by international scholars and the focus will be on research methodology and the academic competencies to write a dissertation.

A student from the UFS, Rev. Ntabanyane Tseuao, was selected to present a short paper at the conference. He is one of three postgraduate students who are from the Theological University Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and the University of Tübingen in Germany, respectively.

Prof. Erik de Boer, an Extraordinary Professor and Research Fellow at the UFS and Mr Eric Kayayan, a Research Fellow at the UFS, will also be keynote speakers at the conference.

Two other academics from the UFS, Prof. Adriaan Neele, an Extraordinary Professor and Research Fellow and Dr Victor d’Assonville, a Research Fellow, will also present papers.

The participation of these academics in the conference is the result of an initiative that started eight years ago to cluster South African research on Classical and Reformation Theology at the University of the Free State. - Leonie Bolleurs

 

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