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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

From Architecture graduate to fashion sensation
2016-11-14

Description:Paul Whitehead  Tags: Paul Whitehead  longdesc=

Paul Whitehead, owner and founder of
Major John.
Photo: Supplied

Paul Whitehead never thought the small business he started in his hostel room at the University of the Free State (UFS) in Huis Abraham Fischer on the Bloemfontein Campus would develop into something of magnitude.

Paul, who completed his Honours degree in Architecture in 2015 at the UFS, is currently taking a gap year due to the rapid growth of his business. Major John started back in December 2012, with Love Warrior becoming Paul’s first outlet. In 2014 Paul started manufacturing his first series of timber bow ties and after that, sales started booming.

Supplier to 16 outlets in South Africa

“We currently supply 16 outlets throughout South Africa with a range of products such as timber bow ties, genuine leather suspenders and concrete and timber desk lamps, as well as other leather products,” Paul says.

He says that a new range of nine timber bow ties is launched every four months. “The timber is recycled and the fabric is handpicked from around the country to ensure quality, thus the bow ties are hand-crafted and unique,” Paul says.

Trust your gut feeling and believe in yourself

His main goal with the timber bow ties is to expand while the unique quality of the product is not compromised. “We are also in a process of expanding the range of our products in the exclusive market.”

Paul attributes his success to delivering excellent service to people who appreciate his pride and joy, his Major John collection. He encourages future entrepreneurs to listen to others’ advice, but to trust their own gut feeling and always believe in themselves.

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