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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 Alumni honours four
2007-02-19

 Mr Corrie van Zyl, former South African fast bowler and assistant coach of the national cricket squad, will be honoured by the Alumni of the University of the Free State (UFS) as Kovsie Alumnus of the Year 2006.
 
The award is made to Mr Van Zyl for his outstanding contribution to cricket. Under his guidance the Gestetner Diamond Eagles performed excellently and won five out of the six national one-day cricket tournaments they took part in.
 
The Cum Laude Award, awarded from time to time to any alumnus for outstanding service or achievement at local, national or international level in his/her specific career domain, will be awarded to Messrs Zingile Dingani and  Deon Meyer.
 
Mr Dingani will receive the Kovsie Alumni Cum Laude Award for his influential position in the government of South Africa as secretary of Parliament.  As former MEC for Finance in the Free State, he performed significant leadership roles in transforming the Free State economy. The Mail and Guardian described him “as a high performer who is likely to become the next Provincial Premier”.
 
Mr Deon Meyer, acclaimed South African suspense novel writer, will also receive a Kovsie Alumni Cum Laude Award for 2006.  Mr Meyer received numerous acknowledgements and awards for his contribution to literature on both national and international level.
 
Prof Helena Van Zyl, Director of the School of Management at the UFS, receives the Kovsie Alumni National Management Award for exceptional service during 2006.  Through her extraordinary abilities and leadership skills, Prof Van Zyl has managed to build the School of Management at the UFS to one of the most reckoned management schools countrywide.
 
The award ceremony will take place on Friday 9 March 2007 during a gala award banquet in the Reitz Hall of the UFS Centenary Complex on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.  
 
All alumni of the UFS are welcome to attend the function. The guest artists will be various talented Kovsies and the entrance fee of R100 per person includes a three course meal.  
 
Those who are interested can contact Ms Annanda Calitz at 051 401 3382 or alumni@ufs.ac.za.
 
Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
16 February 2007
 

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