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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 part of project to translate Bible into Sign Language
2012-02-15

 
Signing welcome to the UFS was, from left: Sias Graig from Gauteng; Agnes Dyabuza from the Western Cape; and John Keitsemore from the Free State.
Photo: Amanda Tongha

Plans to have the Bible translated into South African Sign Language were discussed at our university. This project is the first of its kind in the country and our university is playing an active role in it.

Representatives from various church denominations and deaf-friendly local and international organisations met on the Bloemfontein Campus. Wycliffe Bible Translators, Talking Hands, the International Missions Board and Seed, an organisation from Australia, were some of organisations represented. Representatives from Lesotho and Swaziland also attended the meeting.
 
Participants met for the first time in Johannesburg in October 2011. The recent meeting was to discuss the project moving forward. The translation project is expected to be completed in five years time and the final product will be released on a DVD, featuring Bible stories chronologically.
 
Organiser Lisa Craye says Bloemfontein was not only chosen as venue because it is central, but also because of the work that had already been done by UFS staff member Susan Lombaard. Ms Lombaard, who works at the Unit for Language Facilitation and Empowerment, did her master’s degree on the need for a Bible in South African Sign language in 2003.

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