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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

Stochastic Modelling for Reliability from Russia
2013-12-20

 

 Prof Maxim (MS) Finkelstein’s
The Russian professor first visited our university in 1993 and loved the environment. For the last 15 years we were fortunate to have had a man of Prof Maxim (MS) Finkelstein’s (65) stature as part of our Department of Mathematical Statistics.

“I like the atmosphere, the environment and the people of the UFS,” says Prof Finkelstein. “The UFS is a real campus, not part of the city as a lot of other universities in South Africa.”

Prof Finkelstein completed his MSc in Mathematical Physics from the Leningrad State University in the USSR in 1971. Maths and Physics have been a passion of his since a young age. In 1979, Prof Finkelstein completed his PhD in Mathematical Theory of Reliability at Leningrad Elektropribor Institute. Before his career at our university, Prof Finkelstein was a Senior Researcher at St. Petersburg Elektropribor Institute and an Associate Professor at Leningrad Technological Institute.

His long list of publications includes over 170 papers and five books. His monograph Failure Rate Modelling for Reliability and Risk was published by Springer in 2008. More recently another monograph – which was co-authored with JH Cha – was published by Springer in April 2013 and is called Stochastic Modelling for Reliability: Shocks, Burn-in, and Heterogeneous Populations.

Prof Finkelstein’s research interests include mathematical theory of reliability, survival analysis, risk and safety modelling, stochastic processes and stochastics in demography. When asked about leisure and life outside of research, the devoted academic’s response was as follows…

“To have publications, you have to work all the time. I work half of Saturdays and most of Sundays,” Prof Finkelstein says. “I spend three months a year in Russia and Germany – mostly during the European summer – for my research.”
“But apart from that, I like reading – classical Russian authors mostly. I swim in the UFS’s swimming pool almost every day and I play tennis as well.”

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