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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

UFS teams up with Kagiso Trust
2010-08-11

Prof. Jonathan Jansen (Rector and Vice-chancellor of the UFS) and Mr Khotso Schoeman (Chief Executive Officer of the Kagiso Trust).

Photo: Gerhard Louw

The University of the Free State (UFS) has signed an agreement with Kagiso Trust to host a series of memorial lectures and discussions commemorating the life of clerical activist Beyers Naudé. Naudé strove against his pro-Nationalist Party upbringing to help the anti-apartheid struggle. He was pivotal in starting dialogue, in South Africa and abroad, concerning apartheid. It is because of his willingness to discuss issues in open dialogue that Kagiso Trust decided to honour him.

These lectures aim to involve students and staff from all the UFS campuses, as well as the Free State community in general, to talk critically about societal issues and challenges, while celebrating the life of Beyers Naudé.

The lectures will continue at the UFS for three years and a different theme related to the main idea will be chosen each year. Each theme will have subthemes guiding discussions among students and staff on the three campuses of the UFS. The theme for this year’s lecture is “Crafting a legacy”.

The launch of the memorial lecture series at the UFS will be on the Main Campus on Monday, 13 September 2010. In 2011 the activities will move to the Qwaqwa Campus of the university.

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

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