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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

Good quality wheat essential for bread production
2016-11-29

Description: Robbie Lindeque Tags: Robbie Lindeque 

Robert Lindeque, wheat breeder at the ARC
Small Grain Institute in Bethlehem.
Photo: Supplied

“Wheat quality, specifically grain protein, is of the most crucial components determining the profitability of wheat farmers.”

This is according to Robbie Lindeque, wheat breeder at the ARC Small Grain Institute in Bethlehem. As a wheat breeder, one of his primary aims is to make a contribution to sustainable wheat production in the inland of South Africa.

A closer analysis of bread wheat protein

With his PHD thesis, "Protein quality versus quantity in South African commercial bread wheat cultivars”, Lindeque answered critical questions regarding the South African wheat industry. The major question of his PhD, which he received on 30 June 2016, was whether protein quality could compensate for protein quantity as a measure of bread quality in South Africa.

The three main wheat-producing areas in South Africa, the dryland summer rainfall region (Free State), dryland winter rainfall region (Western Cape), and the cooler irrigation regions (Northern Cape), were used as a starting point for the study.

Proteins are essential for the baking of good quality bread. Worldwide, the utilisation of wheat flour shipments in the baking industry is determined by the protein proportion of the shipment.

Lindeque says the aim of his thesis was to determine whether a closer analysis of bread wheat protein would provide a better indication of good or bad bread quality. “The conclusion from this study was that both protein quantity and protein quality from all three production areas in South Africa varies constantly in accuracy regarding the estimation of bread volume, mainly as a result of environmental factors,” says Lindeque.

Results relevant to the wheat industry

In 2012, application was made to the Winter Cereal Trust for funding of the project. After funding was approved – thus making the Winter Cereal Trust the main partner – seed samples were collected from the 2012 and 2013 national cultivar adaptation trials.

“After this, the seed underwent protein and flour analyses, which added a third year to the study, with the fourth year consisting of statistical processing and documenting of the results,” says Lindeque.

Funding by the Winter Cereals Trust contributed to the fact that the study constantly attempted to keep issues and results as relevant as possible to the wheat industry.

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