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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

First Black Rag Queen wants to give voice to voiceless
2017-02-22

Description: Coronation ball 2017 Tags: Coronation ball 2017

The winners of the 2017 Amanzi Coronation
ball are, from the left: Devina Harry,
Second Princess; Kgomotso Sebusi,
First Princess; Prudence Mahlaba, Rag Queen;
Suhail Peerbhai, Mr Rag; Jordan Nadasen,
First Runner-up; and Mohlale Matlala,
Second Runner-up.
Photo: Gerhardus Bosch


“It is true what they say about your purpose driving you towards your goal. The ride to eventually becoming the first black RAG Queen was motivated by a pure desire in my heart to help other people.”

This is the moving words of Prudence Mahlaba, who was crowned Rag Queen at the Amanzi Coronation Ball on Friday 17 February 2017. Suhail Peerbhai, a second-year BCom Economics student, was crowned Mr Rag 2017.

Giving a voice to the voiceless

Mahlaba says she wants to make a positive impact, “not only on the less fortunate, but also on the voiceless.” The fourth-year LLB student strives to adhere to the vision of the acronym RAG (Receive and Give). RAG is mainly about a good cause in order to make a difference.
“It is beauty with a purpose, practising what you preach, and doing unto others what you want them to do unto you,” Mahlaba said.

It was a night of glitz and glamour as the finalists made a last bid for the sought-after titles at the prestigious event held at the Student Church on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State.

Role provide foundation for change
“Becoming Mr Rag is an exceptional feeling; however, this role entails much more responsibility,” Peerbhai said. “At a time like this, it has given me a solid foundation to make a difference in communities that are less fortunate.”

His advice to future participants in the contest is, “to go for it, since it entails the most life-changing challenges students in our era can face. No classroom teachings can provide you with the same values and experiences.”

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