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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

African issues the core of international conference
2016-02-19

Description: Prof Hussein Solomon Tags: Prof Hussein Solomon

Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor at the Department of Political Studies and Governance of University of the Free State (UFS), expects the Osaka University–UFS Conference to influence African policy makers.
Photo: Supplied

Scholars and policymakers are expected to map out the political, economic, social, and educational trajectory at the Annual Osaka University–University of the Free State (UFS) Conference from 22 - 23 February 2016. The State of South Africa and Conflict Resolution in Africa are the themes of the two-day conference, hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) on the Bloemfontein Campus.

The Osaka School of International Public Policy, Japan, and UFS Department of Political Studies and Governance have invited international academics, policymakers, and stakeholders in an attempt to reflect on a new path forward for the country and the continent.

Acknowledging problems to deal with them

According to Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor in Political Studies at the UFS, “the idea is not only to map out the scale and gravity of the problems confronted, but also to arrive at policy-relevant conclusions. Both Prof Virgil Hawkins of Osaka University and I have briefed, and will continue to brief, African policy makers, so hopefully they could use this information within their own organisations,” he added.

Mapping the way forward

Papers will be presented by delegates from Osaka University, University of Pretoria, Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, the Volksblad, the Free State Legislature, the Institute for Global Dialogue and Operations, Glacier by Sanlam, and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes.

Details of event

Date: 22 and 23 February 2016
Time: 08:45-16:15 and 09:00-14:30
Place: Albert Wessels Auditorium, Bloemfontein Campus
RSVP: Ms Marichen Preller at PrellerMI@ufs.ac.za for catering purposes.

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