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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

Volksblad (Editorial) Transformation recipe (Afrikaans)
2007-02-13

(Editorial - Afrikaans)

Dinsdag 13 Februarie 2007
Hoofartikelblad

Transformasie-resep

DIE transformasieproses in Suid-Afrika kan vooruitgang pootjie as dit nie reg aangepak en deurgevoer word nie.
 
 

Anders gestel: 'n Onbekookte, ondeurdagte proses kan soveel skade aanrig dat dit die land jare gaan neem net om weer op die been te kom.

 
 
Dit is hierdie slaggate waarteen prof. Adam Habib, direkteur van demokrasie en regering by die RGN, waarsku. Transformasie in die hoër onderwys is hier ter sprake, maar belangrike lesse is ook vir die res van die staatshuishouding te leer.
 

Habib het op 'n gespreksgeleentheid op die Wits-kampus gesê universiteite kan binne 10 tot 15 jaar sterf as niks gedoen word om nuwe, jong akademici van gehalte te werf nie. In hul poging om te transformeer en "swart boude op sitplekke te kry" het universiteite so agtergeraak met hul doelwitte dat hulle nou selfs van swakker gehalte is as vroeër. "Speletjies" word met transformasie gespeel en 'n "malheid" rondom syfers is aan die gang.
 

Instellings fokus so daarop om hul kwota-mikpunte te bereik, sê die professor, dat dienslewering en kundigheid die kreeftegang gaan. "So kry 'n mens 'n situasie waar die adjunk-president dan aankondig sy moet Indië toe gaan om vaardige mense te kry."
 

'n Mens kan net hoop dat hierdie waarskuwings op die regte ore val.
 

Transformasie is nodig, maar beslis nie tot elke prys nie.
 

Dit kan die hoëronderwys-sektor loon om te kom kyk waarheen die Universiteit van die Vrystaat met sy Institusionele Manifes op pad is.
 

Die manifes, tans nog 'n besprekingsdokument, gaan die transformasieproses van die UV rig met as einddoel 'n instelling waar alle Suid-Afrikaners plek sal hê en tuis sal voel, maar waarin kernwaardes soos akademiese gehalte en die volgehoue versterking van kernbevoegdhede en -vermoëns ononderhandelbaar is.
 

Dit is sekerlik die enigste pad na transformasie-welslae wat Suid-Afrika kan en moet loop.

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