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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

Dr Le Roux a fellow of Africa Science Leadership Programme
2016-02-23

Description: Dr Aliza le Roux Tags: Dr Aliza le Roux

Dr Aliza le Roux
Photo: Hannes Pieterse

National Research Foundation-rated Y2 scientist, Dr Aliza le Roux, has recently been added to the Africa Science Leadership Programme, an initiative that seeks to create an African network of scientific leaders across disciplinary borders. Her selection to this programme is a reflection of her powerful vision for the continent’s scientific future and sustained scientific excellence.

“It is an honour and an opportunity for me to grow as an academic. This opportunity will also help me build my leadership skills as well as my networks on the continent. It will create a culture of leadership and research that is led by African researchers,’’ Dr Le Roux said.

She added that African researchers have a great potential to solve global problems, yet many of them leave their countries to seek academic success elsewhere. “I hope that the lessons we learn in this programme will pave the way for academia and science to be taken more seriously and practiced more effectively on the continent.”

Together with 21 other fellows from across the continent, Dr Le Roux will be taking part in a week-long workshop in April this year. She is a Senior Lecturer and Subject Head in the Department of Zoology and Entomology on the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State.

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