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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

Renowned Harvard scholar to speak on illness, care-giving and subjectivity
2013-01-28

 
Prof. Arthur Kleinman

 Prof. Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University, will visit the University of the Free State from 4 to 6 February 2013. Prof. Kleinman is a Rabb Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Harvard Asia Centre.

The highlight of his visit will be his participation in the one-day colloquium entitled “Constructions of Illness and Identity: Subjectivity and Chronic Illness in the South African Context” that will take place on 5 February 2013 in the Centenary Hall. He will be joined by a range of speakers from various international and national universities. During his visit, he will also deliver two other lectures.

On Monday, 4 February, he will give a lecture titled: “Against Cynicism: How the Humanities and the Cultivation of our moral selves sustain the Idealism of Students and Faculty”, and on Wednesday, 6 February 2013, he will speak on “Care giving: Revitalising its place in Medicine”. Professor Kleinman is the author of six books, co-author of two others, co-editor of nearly 30 volumes and eight special issues of journals, and author of over 300 articles, book chapters, reviews and introductions.  

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Katinka De Wet on 051 401 2918 or dewetk@ufs.ac.za.

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