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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

UFS SIFE is the best in SA!
2004-07-09

The SIFE team celebrates their victory with Jack Shewmaker, founder of SIFE in 1975 and past-president of Walmart in the USA, and Moses Kgosana, Chairman of KPMG SA.

The Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team of the University of the Free State competed in the National SIFE championships on Thursday, June 17, 2004 at Ceasar’s Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

Strong competition was experienced from the other ten participant SA universities, e.g. the Universities of the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Cape Town and RAU, but die UFS SIFE team retained the national championship for the third year running.

The team will now represent South Africa and the University of the Free State in Barcelona, Spain at die SIFE World Cup. The competition will be held from 22 to 24 September 2004.

The presentation team members for the competition were Tsholofelo Tlhomelang, Imameleng Matete, Kenneth Lefa, Kabelo Lephaka, Nadia van Staden, Tshepo Mahloko (Multi-Media), Werner Schmidt (Faculty Advisor). Supporting the presentation team were Lineo Peete, Keketso Ntene, Ruth Morienyane, Motaung Mathaba, Tshireletso Seekoe, Peter Letsoalo, Obakeng Msuthwana, Tshepiso Lebentle, JC Langeveldt and Michelle Stanley.

SIFE is a world-wide non-profit organisation with the express aim of encouraging students to spread their business knowledge - gained in the classroom - to the community, to promote and expand the principles of free enterprise.( www.sife.org )

The criteria by which SIFE-projects are measured are the following:

• How free markets work in the global economy.
• How entrepreneurs succeed by identifying a market need and then profitably producing and marketing a product or service to fill that need.
• The personal entrepreneurial, communications, technology and financial management skills needed to successfully compete.
• Practicing business in an ethical and socially responsible manner that supports the principles of a market economy.
• Measuring the results of projects, utilizing mass media and the Internet, involving non-business majors and utilizing a Business Advisory Board, communicating the program through a written report and verbal presentation.

The UFS’ SIFE-team’s presentation complied with all the above mentioned criteria. SIFE UFS’ education drive stretched from primary school learners, to adults who had been working for thirty years – this diverse group was taught about the free market system and its value in the global village. Business ethics and basic business principles were communicated in a fun and interactive way to learners. High-level business advice was given to entrepreneurs who started new projects, e.g. a brick-maker, and marketing advice were given to existing businesses in need of expansion.

If you are interested in helping SIFE UFS achieve its goals, e-mail Werner Schmidt at
schmidtw.ekw@mail.uovs.ac.za or phone him at 051 – 401 3376.

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