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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

Three OSM students selected for the 2013 World Youth Symphony Orchestra
2013-01-25


Carmi Nel

Elsabe Raath

Maja van Dyk

25 January 2013

Three students from the University of the Free State’s Odeion School of Music (OSM) have proved their mettle. Carmi Viljoen (violin), Elsabé Raath (viola) and Maja van Dyk (viola), have been accepted into the prestigious World Youth Orchestra – an orchestra known worldwide for its quality and the prix de corps itadvances between nations.

Musica Europa, an Italian cultural association, founded the World Youth Orchestra (WYO) in its present guise in 2001. It has close ties with UNICEF and its mission is to combine music with social activities from cultures all over to world in order to enrich the cultural life of all.

Rigorous auditions are held which require applicants to upload video recordings onto a website (Vimeo). An international board of adjudicators subsequently listens to these recordings and select the best.The three OSM students were good enough to make the grade.

These three musicians are also members of the Free State Symphony Orchestra, as well as the MIAGI orchestra that toured Europe successfully last year. They are also outstanding chamber musicians. Carmi and Elsabé, as members of the Junior Odeion String Quartet, have shown that they are on par with international standards and have toured The Netherlands. In 2012, Maja van Dyk had been selected to perform as soloist with the National Youth String Orchestra under the baton of Swedish conductor and violinist, Fredrik Burstedt.

They first heard of the possibility of playing for the WYO through Anmari van der Westhuizen, lecturer at the OSM. Margarite Spies from the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) had contacted her in search of worthy candidates. A scant three weeks later, they received the good news of their inclusion.

The orchestra, with representatives from five continents, will be touring South Africa this year and no less than nine South Africans have been included. The tour kicks off in Durban, followed by performances in East London, Plettenberg Bay, George, Knysna, Stellenbosch, with a grand finale in the Cape Town City Hall.

Works that will be performed include ‘’Romeo and Juliet’’ by Prokofiev, the irrepressible “Carnival Overture” by Dvorák, Barber’s ‘’Adagio for Strings’’ and part of Mahler’s majestic Fifth Symphony, all under the baton of the dynamic Josep Vicent.

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