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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 informs judicial officers about human trafficking
2010-08-11

At the conference on human trafficking for judicial officers were, from the left: Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS; Mr Ace Magashule, Premier of the Free State; Chief Justice, Justice S Nqcobo; Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development; and Judge Faan Hancke, acting Judge President of the Free State.

Photo: Stephen Collett

The Faculty of Law’s Centre for Judicial Excellence at the University of the Free State (UFS) in cooperation with the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Gender Directorate hosted a conference for judicial officers from the Magistrate’s Courts, the Regional Courts and the High Courts on “Human trafficking: Equal rights, equal opportunities and progress for all”.

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Andries Nel delivered a keynote address at this event. He said that anti-human trafficking legislation would be passed in the near future. Also delivering a key note address at the conference was the Chief Justice, Justice Sandile Nqcobo.

The aim of the conference was to empower judicial officers on the topic of human trafficking. A number of presentations from amongst others Adv. Beatri Kruger from the UFS’s Unit for Children’s Rights served to inform magistrates and judges about the characteristics, causes, the human trafficking process and the consequences of human trafficking on victims. Delegates also discussed the impact of human trafficking on human rights and the comprehensive response to human trafficking with a clear focus on the victims’ rights during criminal proceedings.

This conference was attended by 100 judicial officers from across South Africa. 

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