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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

Seasoned international pianist appointed at the OSM
2016-02-05

Description: Dr Grethe Nöthling Tags: Dr Grethe Nöthling

Dr Grethe Nöthling

The Odeion School of Music is delighted to welcome Dr Grethe Nöthling as a new member of its dynamic performance faculty.

Dr Nöthling has been appointed as principal piano lecturer. She has won several national music competitions, and is the recipient of numerous awards and bursaries, including the University of South Africa overseas scholarship for teachers in 2003.

Musician and pedagogue par excellence

From 1989 to 2005, Dr Nöthling performed as soloist with all major South African Symphony Orchestras. She obtained a Bachelor of Music Degree (magna summa cum laude), specialising in Performance from the University of Pretoria under the tutelage of Professors Ella Fourie and Joseph Stanford.

She furthered her studies in the United States of America at the Cleveland Institute of Music where she received a Master’s of Music Degree in 2008 under the guidance of Daniel Shapiro and Paul Schenly.

Dr Nöthling obtained a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree (2014) from the University of Iowa (UI) in the USA under Professor Uriel Tsachor. During her studies at the U of I, she was awarded a teaching assistantship, and performed with the university’s New Music Ensemble. During a ten-year residency in the USA, she has performed extensively as both soloist and chamber musician.

Inspiration for aspiring musicians

“It is my hope to be an inspiration for young and upcoming musicians both as pedagogue and performing artist. In order to consider the unique gifts and challenges of every individual student, I am of the opinion that is imperative to be very flexible and adjustable from a methodological and musical perspective,” said Dr Nöthling.

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