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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

Agri-pedia a valuable tool for the farmer
2013-10-03

 

03 October 2013

Agri-pedia, an internet-based facility to assist the farmer in a whole array of topics, was launched at the university.

This ground-breaking new education tool was developed by die UFS in partnership with the private sector to bridge the gap between agricultural science and successful farming. Experience of more than a thousand years is pulled together in the project.

Topics vary from farm management and planning, market information, geographic information and maps, to beekeeping, flower production, the farm home and many more.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, said at the Agri-pedia launch it is a myth that education only happen in schools. At Nampo he was amazed to see the level of education on farms, done by farmers. “Another myth is that education is the task of government – there is a tardiness and lack of concern.

“You don’t change schools with government, but with partnerships. Agri-pedia will not be possible without partnerships.”

The launch of Agri-pedia happened against the background that food security in the world is under threat. About 840 million people are chronically experiencing malnourishment. Included in this figure are 200 million children under the age of 15 in the developing world. By 2020 nearly 70% of people suffering malnutrition will live in sub-Sahara Africa and in South Asia.

The agricultural sector must be assisted to shift from subsistence farming to sustainable food production and economic development.

For more information, visit www.agripedia.co.za or send an email to admin@agripedia.co.za.

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