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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 hosts first International Congress on Calvin Research in Africa
2010-08-31

Present at the Calvin Research Conference were, from the left: Dr Frank Ewerszumrode (OP), Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Mainz in Mainz, Germany; Prof. Dr Herman Selderhuis, President of the International Congress on Calvin Research; Prof. Dolf Britz, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa at the UFS; and Ntabanyane Tseuoa, Masters student in the Jonathan Edwards Centre at the UFS.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

The first International Congress on Calvin Research in Africa was this week presented on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein. This was the tenth Calvin Research Conference presented. The conference is presented every four years.

The theme of the congress was: Reconciliation in the Theology of Calvin. Presentations were made about, amongst others, Calvin’s viewpoint regarding slavery and social justice. There was also a discussion about the extraordinary interest to record the original Calvin texts in databases and to make it available to researchers worldwide.

According to Prof. Dolf Britz, Director of the Jonathan Edwards Centre at the UFS, the objective of the congress was to study original Calvin sources critically. “An important part of the congress’ work is to publish an important part of Calvin’s work in a comprehensive text critical edition. This process is already well advanced and includes a number of unknown texts,” said Prof. Britz.

With its research on Calvin, the UFS emphasises the study of original theological sources. “This approach makes the Faculty of Theology part of the UFS’s strategy towards internationalisation. This is also one of the reasons why the UFS was selected by Yale University in America as partner in the recent establishment of the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa,” said Prof. Britz, whose brainchild it was to also include young upcoming researchers with the study of original sources and classical languages such as Latin.

The congress was attended by researchers and academics from across the world. Twenty young, emerging researchers formed part of this group that was invited by the UFS. According to Prof. Britz, these young researchers are the top achievers at their respective universities, such as the North-West University, Stellenbosch University, Mukanyo Theological College in the Pretoria area and the UFS.

At this event, attended by more than 70 world-renowned Calvin scholars from countries like, amongst others, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Finland, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, America, Germany and Hungary; UFS academics like Prof. Eric de Boer, Extraordinary Professor in Classical and Reformed Theology and students like Rev. Ntabanyane Tseuoa from Lesotho, read and presented papers as well.

According to Prof. Britz this congress was a very good opportunity to introduce the UFS to the rest of the world.

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

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