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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

Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies produces a literary hat trick
2015-12-17

Description: Samantha book cover Tags: Samantha book cover

Three scholars. Three books. One research unit.

Two post-doctoral fellows and a PhD student from Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation (TFR) Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS) have each achieved author-status. During December 2015, Drs Samantha van Schalkwyk and Kim Wale, as well as Naleli Morojele will have their books on the shelves.

Description: Naleli Morojele book cover Tags: Naleli Morojele book cover

Dr Van Schalkwyk, PhD in Psychology (UFS, 2014), is leading co-editor of the book A Reflexive Inquiry into Gender Research: Towards a New Paradigm of Knowledge Production & Exploring New Frontiers of Gender Research in Southern Africa. The book is a product of an international symposium she organised in 2013. Dr Van Schalkwyk has made prolific contributions during her three years at the UFS: speaking at two international conferences, and publishing her research in internationally-accredited peer-reviewed journals. In addition, she is also heading a major research project on Gender Reconciliation, based at the university.

Dr Wale is a graduate of the University of London with a PhD (2013) in post-conflict development. Her forthcoming book, South Africa's Struggle to Remember: Contested Memories of Squatter Resistance in the Western Cape is based on her doctoral research. Now that Dr Wale’s book is finished, she will be working with Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela on the analysis of research data collected for a study on transformation – as well as resistance to it – in students’ residences.

 Description: Kim Wale book cover Tags: Kim Wale book cover

Naleli Morojele received her Master of Arts in African Studies in 2014 from the UFS. Her dissertation research was on women political leaders in post-conflict countries, with data collected in South Africa and Rwanda. The review comments on her thesis prompted her to consider turning her research into a book. She spent seven months on this project with support from a global network of mentors affiliated with TFR Studies. The product is the book, Women Political Leaders in Rwanda and South Africa: Narratives of Triumph and Loss. Morojele is currently a PhD candidate. Her study focuses on university women, and explores women’s gender identity in the post-apartheid context.

“I am very excited about the work that these young women have produced,” says Prof Gobodo-Madikizela. “Dr Van Schalkwyk has already been invited by Palgrave Macmillan to consider a contract with the publisher to turn her PhD thesis into a book. It is going to be a very busy and productive year for her.”

A bumper book launch in mid-January 2016 is in the pipeline.

 

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