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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

NRF Renewals: 2005
2004-09-21

Renewal applications for Masters and Doctoral scholarships for 2005 are due now. Students who were awarded NRF Prestigious/Equity Masters and Doctoral scholarships, DoL/NRF Masters and Doctoral scholarships as well as the NLC/NRF Masters and Doctoral scholarships for support in 2004 are eligible to apply for the renewal of their scholarships for 2005, if the criteria for progress have been met. The NRF will not send individual letters to students reminding them to renew their scholarships. No incomplete or late applications will be considered. Scholarship holders must explicitly request renewal of their scholarships by submitting an application for the renewal of the scholarship on the relevant form. University’s internal closing date: 22 October 2004 at 15:30.

NRF closing date: 31 October 2004. Application forms must be handed in on or before the internal closing date at the George du Toit Administration Building, Room 155 (Mr Maleka, x9263).

Application forms can be downloaded from http://www.nrf.ac.za/students.php. Application forms for the renewal of DoL/NRF scholarships for people with disabilities will be made available on the website in due course.

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