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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 Postgraduate student council’s community project a success
2016-03-03

Description: UFS Postgraduate council’s community project a success Tags: UFS Postgraduate council’s

Prof Jansen Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Dr Henriette van den Berg, Director of Postgraduate School, and Mr Gustav Wilson, Regional Head: Development and Care, Free State and Northern Cape Region.

The University of the Free State’s Postgraduate Student Council embarked on a courageous community engagement project for Mandela Day in 2015. The programme was aimed at assisting offenders at Tswelopele Correctional Centre pass their matric exams, thus granting them access to tertiary education.

The Postgraduate Student Council assisted the 2015 matriculants with study support, and motivated them during their final examinations in 2015. The council will play a bigger role this year by offering offenders at Tswelopele career advice and career guidance for when they leave the correctional facility, as well as study techniques to assist them throughout the year, to ensure a 100% pass mark in 2016.

Offenders who had participated in the Postgraduate Student Council project attended the Postgraduate School’s Open Day on 19 February.  Of the 12 offenders, 11 passed their matric exams, while one is currently busy with his supplementary exams. Tswelopele has a 92% pass rate; it is the best performing correctional centre in South Africa.

The Tswelopele Correctional Centre also serves as a full-time high school (Grade 10-12), and TVET College, assisting offenders to register for tertiary education through various universities.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State, said that he was immensely proud of the matriculants from Tswelopele Correctional Centre. He added that it is vital for every human being to receive a second chance. “Rehabilitation programmes are meant to give offenders a second chance at life, because we cannot give up on humanity. Correctional centres and rehabilitation centres are a societal responsibility. Society must not give up on offenders, everyone deserves a second chance, and we cannot give up on humanity.”

“To our offenders going through rehabilitation and all our young people who are our hope for the future of our beloved country, be encouraged. Dream again. Discover the wonder in your lives,” said Mr Gustav Wilson, Regional Head: Development and Care, Free State and Northern Cape Region.

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