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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 mourns the death of valued Member of Council
2015-05-15

Father Patrick Towe

The senior leadership of the University of the Free State (UFS) is deeply saddened by the passing away of Father Patrick Towe on Wednesday 6 May 2015, following a period of illness. Father Towe served as Chairperson of the university’s Campus Ministries Forum (CMF) for several years, and had been its representative on the UFS Council since 2006.

“Father Towe was an extremely valuable member of the UFS Council. His insight into and knowledge of university business always contributed greatly to the spirit in which the deliberations of Council took place. He will be dearly missed. Our deepest condolences go to his family, friends, the students of ACTS, as well as the congregation in Heidedal, which he served,” said Judge Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council.

“I remember Father Towe fondly for his pastoral availability to staff and students during moments of crisis from the time of the Reitz incident to those times in which we lost precious student lives. He would call us to prayer and consolation, and for these gifts from Father Towe I am deeply, deeply grateful,” said Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

Father Towe, OMI (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) represented the Association of Catholic Tertiary Students (ACTS) on the Campus Ministries Forum. As Student Chaplain, he served the university student body through the Catholic Christian Ministry, providing spiritual guidance and support. He took up campus ministry in Bloemfontein in November 2002, and developed a quasi-parish within the student communities on campus.

He received his education in the United Kingdom where he was ordained in 1975. Throughout his career, Father Towe had a special involvement with community development and youth work. He worked as the Roman Catholic Chaplain at the University of Southampton from 1996 to 1998, providing pastoral care to both students and staff of the university. He served as Parish Priest of Christ the King in Heidedal, Bloemfontein.

“Father Towe was instrumental in reviving the CMF, and getting many more churches on campus involved. He had a heart for seeing churches with different backgrounds and focuses unite in making a difference at the university. He was a true gentleman, and was willing to listen to and negotiate with people, without compromising his values. He also did great work among the people of Heidedal towards the end of his life, and we will miss his presence on the CMF”, said Pastor Alistair Kingwill, current Chairperson of the CMF.

 

Media Release
Lacea Loader
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