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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

Leading African Studies scholar to represent UFS as research fellow at Leiden University
2016-03-10

Description: Dr Stephanie Cawood Tags: Dr Stephanie Cawood

Dr Stephanie Cawood to devote three months at the African Studies Centre Leiden as a visiting research fellow to further her research on the rhetorical imprint of Nelson Mandela.
Photo: Supplied

Dr Stephanie Cawood, Programme Director and Senior Lecturer at the University of the Free State (UFS) Centre for Africa Studies has been offered a visiting research fellowship to the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The ASCL is entirely devoted to the study of Africa transcending multiple faculties and is known for its extensive library.

As a visiting research fellow from April to June 2016, Dr Cawood looks forward to expanding her network as well as intellectual horizons with the broad spectrum of knowledge archived by the ASCL. “Working so closely with the scholars at the African Studies Centre Leiden will enrich my research and broaden my international footprint as a scholar,” Dr Cawood says.

Her research at ASCL follows on her doctoral research on the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s rhetorical imprint, and will explore the conceptual, cultural, ideological and historical influences that shaped the thought and rhetoric of Nelson Mandela. She is particularly interested in studying the intertextual dynamics in Mandela’s rhetoric with historical figures such as Jawarharlal Nehru, Martin Luther King Jr and Winston Churchill.

According to Dr Cawood, this research “will deepen the understanding of Nelson Mandela’s rhetorical journey from struggle to liberation and unpack the various influences that made him the political figure he ultimately became.”

During her tenure at Leiden University, Dr Cawood will prepare a manuscript to be published by the ASCL as a working paper and also present seminars.

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