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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

House Madelief turns over a new leaf
2013-02-15

 

The new year has come with a lot of changes for House Madelief. The residence, home to 179 female students, had a make-over which changed its inside appearance. The changes include new relaxation and meeting spaces, changes in decor, as well as renovations to the residence’ and visitors’ bathrooms.

Notable changes include four different spaces which each present a unique, but blending identity. When not in class, residents can make use of the little coffee corner, a conference room for quick meetings, a lounge and relaxation area. New paintings were also hung in the men’s gazellie, consisting of artworks painted by talented Madelief resident, Kondi Shikwambani. 

With new decor came a new theme. “A place we call home, our home, Madelief," says Diatile Mohlakane, Prime of the residence. "Madelief is a vibrant place of colour, which has postitive energy flowing throughout the house."

Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs, congratulated Madelief on its new appearances. "We are immensely proud of Madelief and of both the Residence Head and the Residence Committee for achieving change, not only in terms of what the residence’s facilities offer Madeliefies, but also in the apparent sense of community among students which have become a proud reality. Madeliefies are now known as people who live with values which inspire all around them."

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