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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

‘This university gives me hope’
2013-10-02

 
4 October 2013
Photo: Stephen Collett

“This is a university that gives me hope. It has a willingness and a capacity to care,” Brand Pretorius said at a farewell function at the UFS.

He served the university as honorary professor in the Department of Business Management since 1991 and delivered the Brand Pretorius lecture for the past two decades. His recent lecture dealt with the topic “Guidelines for sustainable personal success in business – lessons I learnt”.

He retired as CEO of McCarthy and as an executive director of the Bidvest Group on 1 March 2011. Currently he serves as a non-executive director on the boards of the Barclays Africa Group, Reunert, RGT Smart, Tata Africa Holdings and Tongaat Hulett. He is the non-executive chairman of Italtile Limited.

Pretorius said at the farewell function the UFS is still a source of inspiration and pride. The leadership has a lot of courage and commitment and embraced change. “They embraced the fact that we are living in a different world.

“The vision of the UFS is inspirational. It wants to be recognised for academic and research excellence. The university became a pioneer in reconciliation in a very difficult world. Change comes with pain, and the UFS dealt with it in a worthy manner.

“I am proud of this institution because it still strives for high standards, the right principles and values and it has respect for all people.”

Pretorius said the university’s heart is in the right place. “It is a beacon of hope of what the rainbow nation will be in South Africa one day. Reconciliation is a sign that this is happening.”

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