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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

New York academic pays visit to UFS
2010-08-02

 
 Prof. Teboho Moja, a professor of Higher Education at NYU, paid a successful visit to the UFS. Here are, from left: Mr John Samuel, Interim Director: International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, UFS; Dr Bryan Urbsaitis, Assistant-Director of Study Abroad, Pace University, USA; Prof. Moja; Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS; and Dr Olihile Sebolai, Directorate Research Development, UFS.
Photo: Arthur Johnson
 
Prof. Teboho Moja, a professor of Higher Education from New York University (NYU), paid a fruitful visit to the University of the Free State (UFS). During her visit Prof. Moja, who is originally from South Africa, engaged with various stakeholders to further strengthen relations between the UFS and NYU.

Prof. Moja’s research focus is on the change in higher education and the implications of globalisation on higher education systems. As part of her visit to the UFS, Prof. Moja delivered a public lecture, entitled “Diversity oriented transformation for Teaching and Learning”. The lecture was presented by the Directorate Research Development and the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice.

Prof. Moja studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and obtained her Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States of America (USA).

In 1998 she became the first black woman to be appointed as chairperson of the council of the University of South Africa (UNISA). She is also an honorary professor at the University of Pretoria (UP).

On her visit to the UFS Prof. Moja was accompanied by Dr Bryan Urbsaitis from Pace University in New York and Ms Gina Canterucci from NYU. She also led a group of postgraduate students in International Education Studies. These students interacted with fellows from the Grow Our Own Timber Programme of the UFS. The interaction greatly contributed towards enhancing both student groups’ acuity on academic and social matters.

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