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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

Q and A with Prof Hussein Solomon on ‘Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Africa’
2015-05-29

 

Political Science lecturer, Prof Hussein Solomon, has launched his latest book, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Africa: fighting insurgency from Al Shabaab, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram, on Wednesday 26 May 2015 at the UFS.

In his book, Solomon talks about the growing terrorist threat in Africa, with the likes of Al Shabaab, Ansar Dine, and Boko Haram exploiting Africa's vulnerabilities to expand their operations. Explaining both the limitations of current counter-terrorist strategies and possible future improvements, this timely study can be appreciated by scholars and practitioners alike.

Q: If you speak of Al Shabaab, Ansar Dine, and Boko Haram expanding operations, do you see possibilities for their expansion even into South Africa, or is expansion mainly focused on northern African countries?
 
A: All three movements are operating out of their respective countries. Al Shabaab has attacked Kenya and Uganda and tried to attack the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa. So yes, there is a danger that they are here and, more importantly, newer groups like ISIS are recruiting in SA already.
 
Q: If the traditional military response is ineffective, what would be a better approach then?

 
A:
What is important is that the force of arms needs to complement the force of ideas. What is being waged is an ideological battle, and, just as the West defeated Communism ideologically in the Cold War, we need to defeat radical Islamism ideologically. In addition, the military response needs to complement the governance and development responses.
 
Q: External players like the US have insufficient knowledge of the context, what would be the knowledge about context necessary for anyone concerned about the terror problem in Africa?
 
A: Allow me to give you some examples. The US trains African militaries to fight terrorist groups, but, when they return to their countries, they stage a coup and topple the civilian government. The US does not seem to understand that arming a predatory military and training them makes them more predatory and brutal, which results in civilians being recruited by terrorists, as happened in Mali. Similarly, the US sent arms to the Somali government, and members of that government sold those arms to Al Shabaab terrorists, the very people they were supposed to fight. So the Americans do not understand the criminalisation of the African state, which undermines good governance and promotes terrorism.

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