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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 Professor on his new book on Boko Haram
2017-02-01

Description: Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor  Tags: Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor

Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor
in the Department of Political Studies and
Governance at the UFS and co-editor of the
book titled Understanding Boko Haram:
Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa
.
Photo: Charl Devenish

Understanding the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria is exactly what Prof Hussein Solomon from the Department of Political Studies and Governance at the University of the Free State (UFS) has set out to do.

Understanding the emergence of Boko Haram
Prof Solomon says tens of thousands of people have been killed in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring states as a result of the violence unleashed by the terrorist group. With the help of his co-editor, Prof Jim Hentz, who is an army colonel and lecturer at the Virginia Military Institute in the US, they set out to “understand the emergence of Boko Haram in a historical, sociological, economic and political context”.

In his book, titled Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa, Prof Solomon “seeks to understand the emergence of Boko Haram in a historical, sociological, economic and political context”.

Book launch to take place in Chicago in the US
In his previous book, Islamic State and the Coming Global Confrontation, he analyses the origins and organisational structure of the Islamic State. Although an entirely new topic, but within the broad theme of political Islam, this book focuses more on how Boko Haram has become part of the Islamic State’s franchise in West Africa.

The book, which took more than a year to write, is based on secondary research, followed by primary documents and interviews done on the ground in Nigeria. It will be of much interest to students of terrorism and political violence, insurgencies, African politics, war and conflict studies, and international relations in general.

The official launch will take place at the African Studies Association’s annual meeting and takes place from 16-18 November 2017, in Chicago in the US.

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