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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

Esteemed Tutu family honorary guests at first intercontinental symposium
2013-10-08

 

08 October 2013
Photo: Karina Turok

The University of the Free State (UFS) will be hosting a visit by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Leah Tutu. The occasion is to launch the Annual Intercontinental Leah Tutu Symposium on rape and violence against women in honour of Mrs Tutu, who has been an outspoken advocate of women’s rights and the sanctity of family life.

The Inaugural Intercontinental Leah Tutu Symposium will take place on:

Thursday 17 October 2013
12:00-14:00
Scaena Theatre


The launch of the Annual Intercontinental Leah Tutu Symposium is organised by Profs Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (who hosts the Dialogue between Science and Society lecture series) and Heidi Hudson (Director of the Centre for Africa Studies). The Inaugural Intercontinental Leah Tutu Symposium will feature gender and policy analyst Nomboniso Gasa as keynote speaker and Sheila Meintjes, Wits University professor with expertise in gender politics, violence and conflict transformation. The event will also feature voices of survivors of rape and sexual violence, including Johannesburg businesswoman and social entrepreneur, Andy Kawa, who is a survivor of rape and started the organisation Enuf is Enuf to campaign for an end to rape and sexual violence.

On Mrs Tutu’s 80th birthday, during the family’s visit to the UFS, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will also be in conversation with the Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, at a public event: Celebration of a partnership: Archbishop Tutu pays tribute to his wife, on the topic: Man to Man: The Meaning of Leah in My Life.

Thursday 17 October 2013
16:30-18:00
Centenary Complex


The public event is part of the Dialogue between Science and Society lecture series, in collaboration with Mrs Grace Jansen and the Tutu Legacy Foundation.

Please RSVP to Anja Pienaar at pienaaran@ufs.ac.za or +27(0)51 401 7330 or Jo-Anne Naidoo at naidooja@ufs.ac.za or +27(0)51 401 7160.

Two of their daughters, Rev Mpho Tutu and Dr Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe, will accompany Archbishop Desmond and Mrs Leah Tutu.

Short Bio of Mrs Leah Tutu

Nomalizo Leah Tutu is an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and the sanctity of family life. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2000 by the National Louis University in Atlanta for her commitment to human rights and support of her husband’s work. She is patron of the Phelophepa Train, a health project that brings medical care to people living in remote areas of South Africa. She is also a patron of the Tshwaranang Centre that provides legal advocacy to end violence against women. With Archbishop Tutu, Mrs Tutu is a patron of the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. She, Archbishop Tutu, and family established the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in 2012.

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