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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 opens new Research and UDRAW writing unit
2010-08-27

 
Ms Huibré Lombard, Prof. Driekie Hay and Prof. Louis Venter in front of the newly opened UDRAW facility in the UFS Sasol Library.
Photo: Christiaan van der Merwe

The Library and Information Services Division at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently opened two brand-new facilities in the UFS Sasol Library, which includes a new research unit for postgraduate students as well as a new UDRAW Unit (Unit for the Development of Rhetorical and Academic Writing).

The opening of both units is the culmination of planning that originally started with Ms Huibré Lombard, Acting Director of the division Library and Information Services at the UFS, and Prof. Louis Venter, Head of UDRAW, back in 2005. The facilities were officially opened by the Vice-Rector: Teaching and Learning, Prof. Driekie Hay.

The research centre caters for postgraduate students, specifically for those studying towards a Masters or Doctoral degree at the UFS. The centre will help students by supplying advanced research information and specialised staff to cater for their needs. It will also serve as a quiet environment where students can come and work. The UDRAW facility will help shape the writing of postgraduate students as well as supervisors and also provide classes and consultations to further develop the research language of the students. An added benefit for students is that both services are provided free of charge to registered senior postgraduate students at our university.

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