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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

Second group joins Prestige Scholars Programme
2013-02-22

 

Some of the new scholars in the programme are seen here with Prof Jackie du Toit. From the left are: Drs Gladys Kigozi (Centre For Health Systems Research & Development), Brian van Soelen (Physics), Charles Haddad (Zoology and Entomology), Prof Du Toit and Tanya Beelders (Computer Science and Informatics).
Photo: Johan Roux
22 February 2013


A second group of 15 young academics is selected to be part of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP). The first group of 25 scholars joined the programme in 2011 and some of them were placed at partner universities abroad during 2012.

The programme identifies and promotes promising young academics in the university towards becoming full professors with superior research accomplishments.

Prof Jackie du Toit, Academic Co-director of PSP, says: “This highly prestigious cross-disciplinary programme for the next generation of UFS professors in the last two years produced Fulbright scholars; NRF Y1-rated young scholars; NRF Blue Skies and Thuthuka recipients and several National Research Foundation Y2 ratings.

“Scholars on the programme have created partnerships at leading universities in Japan, Europe, the UK and the USA. Within the South African academy, the PSP is a novel approach to the advancement of scholarship and the development of professional scholars. It contributes towards positioning the UFS as an innovator among research universities in this country.”

“This fast-tracking of the next generation of professors involves an intense mentorship programme at the UFS and an international placement with a leading scholar in a top university.”

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