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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 deserves right to decisions
2010-08-15

Following visits of various youth formations to the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Rector and Vice-Chancellor, as well as the Dean of Student Affairs the past week, the university sees the need to remind all stakeholders and outside organisations that, although their views and inputs may be welcomed, the university reserves the right to make decisions regarding student matters and protect our students against suspected influences.

This reminder follows a series of meetings with organisations such as amongst others the Afriforum Youth and the ANC Youth League and subsequent media releases by some of these organisations, which often do not reflect correctly the nature and content of the discussions.

“While we welcome engagement with any organisation serving a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic agenda and regularly invite civil society organisations to dialogue with and assist us in student matters, we reserve the right to decide how to best serve interest of our students,” said Mr Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs at the UFS.

“In our attempt to construct a value-driven, ethically sound and mature student governance environment, we also expect of stakeholders to ensure they engage us maturely and ethically at all times,” Mr Buys said.

“We will guard against organisations that may, under a guise of civil society engagement, wish to continue dysfunctional party-political cultures that fuel divisions and racial tensions among our students. In such cases where organisations by their conduct may prove themselves to do exactly that, we will have no other option but to refuse them entry to campus and set limits to their engagement of our students,” Mr Buys warned.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg.)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@ufs.ac.za  
14 August 2010
 

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