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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

Prof. Dingie Janse van Rensburg promoted to Outstanding Professor
2007-11-19

The University of the Free State (UFS) is pleased to announce that Prof. Dingie Janse van Rensburg, Director of the Centre for Health Systems Research and Development has been promoted to Outstanding Professor.

In 1991 the Executive Committee of the Council introduced the category of Outstanding Professor to give recognition to a small group of outstanding academics. Not many academics at the UFS received this status since then.

Prof. Janse van Rensburg has been working at the UFS for 37 years and played a big role in establishing a culture of scientific publication among young and upcoming researchers.

Prof. Janse van Rensburg enjoys extensive national and international recognition as researcher and research manager. He delivered various national and international papers and is involved in a variety of international research projects – some of which were initiated by him. He succeeded in involving a variety of foreign researchers in long term research projects.

In 1993 he established an entrepreneurial research and development centre, which he has sustained for more than 13 years. The centre enjoys recognition nationally as well as internationally as well as credibility in the eyes of the international donor community, within government’s health sphere as well as in peer academic circles.

Prof. Janse van Rensburg has for several years been a grant holder of both the National Research Foundation and the Medical Research Council for research projects on Tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.

During his career at the UFS Prof. Janse van Rensburg received several merit awards and commendations from the UFS and other institutions. These include the Stals Prize in 1993 from the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, a Council Medal from the UFS in 2003, the UFS Centenary Medal in 2004, an award from the Department of Health in 2004 for excellence and continued support of this department, a promotion to Senior Professor from the UFS in 2005 and the Free State Premier’s Excellence Award Gold category in 2006 for excellence in research and development.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
19 November 2007
 

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