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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

Women must fight for equal opportunities - Motshekga
2010-08-06

 
Photo: Stephen Collett

“We will not know peace and prosperity unless all women are free. We must open opportunities for women and make sure that we achieve the necessary progress. I believe this would be the best way to honour the life of Charlotte Maxeke.”

This rallying call for action was made by the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga (pictured), in her speech to commemorate the life of Charlotte Maxeke, a woman she described as “a heroine” to all South Africans.

The University of the Free State (UFS), in conjunction with the Free State Premier’s office, presented the annual Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Lecture at the Main Campus in Bloemfontein to once again honour this remarkable African woman as part of celebrating Women’s Month.

“We must ensure that we act consciously to extend equal opportunities, freedom and justice to all women,” she said. “We must put all our energies together in this task of uplifting women and children.”

She said that even though women had made considerable strides since the advent of democracy in South Africa, especially in government, much still had to be done to ensure equal opportunities for all women.

“There’s a 40% women representation in government, but the question we should ask ourselves is: What value does this representation bring to the life of an ordinary woman? What impact does it have on her life?” she asked.

She said women were still less represented in managerial positions. “Sexism requires the same amount of energy that we use to fight against racism,” she said.

She also announced that the government had decided to declare the graves of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph as national heritage sites.

The well-attended lecture was entitled: United in action to make 2010-2020 a decade for women in Africa.

Among those present were members of the ANC Women’s League, who came in buses and mini-buses; Dr Allan Boesak and his wife; past and present Free State MECs; and the Vice-Rector of External Relations at the UFS, Prof. Ezekiel Moraka.

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

 

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