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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

National 3MT competition held at UFS
2017-04-04

Description: Dr Thuthukile Jita Tags: Dr Thuthukile Jita

Dr Thuthukile Jita, first runner-up in the Humanities
category at the National 3MT held at the University of
Free State.
Photo: Charl Devenish

From Neanderthal hybrid children to eating corn silk as a way of managing kidney diseases, the National Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) captivated the mind.

“We brought the competition to South Africa and hosted the local, regional, and national competitions for the past few years,” said Dr Emmie Smit, organiser of the event. It is an opportunity to raise the profile of postgraduate research and to develop a cross-disciplinary student community to effectively communicate research to a wide audience. The event was founded by the University of Queensland, Australia. The third national 3MT competition took place at the University of the Free State (UFS) on Friday 24 March 2017.

Education lecturer first runner-up
Dr Thuthukile Jita, lecturer in the School of Education at the UFS, was the first runner-up in the Humanities category during the competition. As the winner of the PhD category at the 3MT competition held at the UFS in 2016, she represented the university at the national round held on Friday 24 March 2017. Her thesis, Pre-Service Teachers’ Competences for Teaching Science through Information and Communication Technologies during Teaching Practice, focus on how teachers can implement and use various communication technologies to improve the teaching of Science in the classroom.

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