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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

ANC is not a party of the people - Mbeki
2010-08-30

 

 

“The unions in this country do not understand the political economy of South Africa. They think that the ANC is the party of the people. The ANC is the party of the black middle class. The fact that the masses vote for it does not mean they control it. The policies of the ANC favour the black middle class and the established businesses. They do not favour the working class.”

This was said by renowned economic and political commentator Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, during a guest lecture he recently presented to Economics students of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein.

“You just have to look at the types of houses that the ANC government builds for ordinary South Africans,” he said.

“If you had a party that was a pro-working class party it would not have built these so-called RDP houses that are being built by the ANC government. The unions have all along been under the illusion that the ANC is the government of the working class and (Zwelinzima) Vavi and them are now beginning to realise that this is not the case.

“The public-sector workers are in a special dilemma. They think the ANC is their ally but at the same time they feel they are not getting any benefits out of this alliance. Therefore you are beginning to get a very acrimonious environment emerging between the public-sector unions and the government.”

Regarding the current issue of the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed media tribunal that have brought the media and the government onto a collision course, Mbeki said the ANC government was trying to muzzle the media because it wanted to safeguard corruption within government.

“The question of freedom of information is very closely linked to the rise in corruption in the government,” he said.

“What the politicians are doing is that they are trying to hide that corruption. The media in this country have been playing a very critical role in exposing cases of corruption. That is why Vavi now has bodyguards.”

He said he recently met Vavi, the General Secretary of Cosatu, surrounded by four bodyguards. He said Vavi told him that he was getting death threats because he was opposing corruption in government.

Mbeki said the economic policies of South Africa were the “worst in the world” because they benefited people who were already rich and militated against the emergence of entrepreneurs.

“In fact, one of the serious downsides of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is that it takes people who should normally be entrepreneurs and who should be creating new companies and new jobs, out of that space and just makes them wealthy. BEE has been a disaster because it created this massive economic inequality; it created this class of idle rich who have tons of money but do nothing,” he added.

He said the under-investment in the economy was having dire consequences in terms of unemployment and poverty. He said this, coupled with the growth of consumption that Black Nationalism was driving, was actually driving down the ability of the economy to absorb labour.

“What really lies at the bottom of our economic problems in South Africa is that we have too much of a one-party dominance of our political system. We need more competition in our political system and until we realise the policies of the ANC are not going to change,” he said.

Mbeki’s guest lecture was on the topic: Architects of Poverty: Why African capitalism needs changing.

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

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