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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 celebrates research excellence
2016-02-25

Description: UFS celebrates research excellence Tags: UFS celebrates research excellence

Researchers at the university were acknowledged for their new research ratings. From the left are: Prof Johann de Wet, Department of Communication Sciences; Prof Naomi Morgan, Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French; Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research; Prof André Pelser, Department of Sociology; Dr Trudi O’Neill, Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology; and Prof Riaz Seedat, Department Otorhinolaryngology.

During a recent gala occasion, the University of the Free State (UFS) acknowledged 15 of its researchers who received new ratings from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

According to Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research at the UFS, 37 applications have already been received for the next round of ratings by the NRF. In recent years, the university has experienced an increase in the rating of its researchers as the result of raised academic standards. These are in line with the Academic Project of the UFS. The UFS has 125 rated researchers in total.

The 15 recipients of new ratings from the NRF in 2015,are:

- Dr Tanya Beelders, Computer Science: Y2
- Dr Andrew Cohen, History: Y1
- Prof Pieter de Villiers, Theology: C2
- Prof Johann de Wet, Communication: C3
- Dr Angelinus Franke, Agriculture: C2
- Prof Jonathan Jansen, Education: B1
- Prof Riaan Luyt, Chemistry: B3
- Prof Naomi Morgan, Linguistics: C2
- Dr Trudi O’Neill, Microbiology: C1
- Prof André Pelser, Sociology: C3
- Dr Johann Rossouw, Philosophy: C2
- Prof Riaz Seedat, Health: C3
- Dr Jakub Urbaniak, Theology: Y2
- Dr Martin van Zyl, Mathematics: C3
- Prof Sue Walker, Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences: C1

The UFS also celebrated its five SARChI research chairs during this event. The main goal of the research chairs is to promote research excellence.

The five research chairs at the UFS are all established at Tier 1. Research chairs in the Tier 1 category are based on the researcher's research track record, as well as on the training record of his/her postgraduate and postdoctoral students.  Tier 1 research chairs are awarded to established researchers who are leaders in their field, and whose work is recognised internationally.

The following research chairs have been awarded to the UFS since 2013:

- Solid State Luminescent and Advanced Materials, Prof Hendrik Swart in the Department of Physics (2013-2017)
- Disease Resistance and Quality in Field Crops, Prof Maryke Labuschagne (2016-2020)
- Higher Education and Human Development, Prof Melanie Walker (2013-2017)
- Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Pathogens, Prof Felicity Burt (2016-2020)
- Humanities without Borders: Trauma, History and Memory (2016-2020) 

 

 

 

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