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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

Investec guest speaker exhorts South Campus students to ‘give it their all’
2017-02-16

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Video clip
Photo Gallery

The South Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) recently welcomed new first-year and returning senior students during an event in the Madiba Arena. This year marks another highlight for the campus, with the accommodation of 252 students in a brand-new residence named Legae (meaning “Home”) on the property.

Prof Daniella Coetzee, Campus Principal, reminded the gathered students, “You are a fully-fledged Kovsie, and this is the first day of the rest of your life. You are now going to really work on your dreams.”

She went on to relate the life story of Albert Einstein, renowned physicist, making the point, “When you work, when you persist, when you take it one day at a time, you never lose sight of your dreams, and you will reach your dreams. I can promise you one thing, dear Kovsies, that if you work hard, plan hard, and you put your mind to it, it will definitely be worthwhile.”

Setlogane Manchidi, Head of Investec’s Corporate Social Investments division and guest speaker, told his colourful life story and academic journey. He described his ‘a-ha moment’ in high school, “when the penny dropped and everything started making sense” on a visit to his mother’s employer in Johannesburg, after going to the cinema to watch a movie: “This is the life I want to live.”

Description: 'South Campus Opening Tags: South Campus, Opening
Andrew Tlou, Investec Social Investment; Carol Bunn,
UFS Institutional Advancement; Setlogane Manchidi,
Head of Investec’s Corporate Social Investments division;
Tshegofatso Setilo, UAP Programmes Manager; and
Francois Marais, Director: Access Programmes,
at the South Campus opening and orientation day.
Photo: Eugene Seegers


This led to a new resolve in his scholastic efforts at the rural school back home in Ga-Phahla, Limpopo, and he started studying over weekends and by candlelight at night. Mr Manchidi shared this lesson with the students, “At that point, I lost my so-called ‘friends.’ I learnt this: Peer pressure is real. If you want to deal with peer pressure, surround yourself with the right peers! Surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. Surround yourself with people who will not turn you back from your path.” He later succeeded in obtaining a bursary to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Mr Manchidi concluded by exhorting students to aspire to greatness, “Every time you settle for what is expected, you rob yourself of the opportunity to prove yourself out of the ordinary. Choose to exceed expectations. Give it your all!”

 

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