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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 awaits applications for a full scholarship
2013-01-07

The office of the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State, Prof. Jonathan Jansen,  offers a full scholarship to one learner  to study at the UFS in 2013.  

This scholarship will cover the tuition, residence, stationery and any specified course-related costs.  

All students who are passionate about  education and wish to contribute towards developing the South African education system, are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. The student may choose which education course he/ she would like to study and will be advised by our Dean of Education, Prof. Dennis Francis.  

The scholarship is a continuation of the Great Teachers Project headed by Prof. Jansen and research assistants, Nangamso Koza and Lihlumelo Toyana, who edited the book, Great South African Teachers.  

The editors have decided to donate the proceeds from the book towards the scholarship, and in partnership with our Faculty of Education, produce the country’s best teachers.  

This scholarship will also look at the holistic development of the learner, and thus award him/her with experiences of shadowing some of the country’s best educators, and take up internships in some of the country’s best schools in both the urban and developing communities.  

To apply, learners should provide their June and December gr. 12 results and also write an essay of 1 000 words titled: Educating a South African Citizen in the 20th Century.  

Applications must reach the UFS before 11 January 2013.
Please forward applications to: greatteachers@ufs.ac.za or fax to (051) 401 2705. Applications can also be mailed to: Office No. 26, Main Building, UFS, Nelson Mandela Drive, Bloemfontein 9301

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