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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

Multilingualism and exclusion to be discussed
2007-11-27

 
 Some of the UFS staff who will be attending the colloquium on multilinguisim and exclusion in Antwerp, Belgium are, from the left, front: Prof. Theo du Plessis and Ms Susan Lombaard; back: Prof. Johan Lubbe and Mr Roelof Geyser. All are from the Unit for Language Management.
 
Multilingualism and exclusion to be discussed

Five members of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Unit for Language Management will be taking part in an international colloquium at the University of Antwerp in Belgium on the theme: “Multilingualism and exclusion – perspectives on language and society” this week.

“During this week’s colloquium, approximately twenty South African and Flemish colleagues will reflect on the complex relationships within multilingual communities, where a variety of factors can contribute to the inclusion or exclusion of individuals or communities. Some of the papers will focus on policy measures (“from above”) with regard to the relative position of languages in a particular state, and the impact of these policy measures on the lives of language users. Others will investigate perceptions and “appropriation” (“from below”) by the same language user. In view of the multiple points of departure, the colloquium should contribute towards a better understanding of the dynamics within multilingual communities,” said Prof. Theo du Plessis, Director of the Unit for Language Management at the UFS.

“To give expression to the theme of multilingualism and exclusion, lectures will be presented in three languages, namely Afrikaans, English and Dutch. Several postgraduate students (from South Africa and Flanders) will also have an opportunity to report on investigations they are conducting within the framework of their master’s degree and doctoral studies,” said Prof. Du Plessis.

The colloquium is a follow-up of an international symposium held at the UFS during April 2006 in which a considerable number of outstanding scholars from various countries participated.

According to Prof. Du Plessis, the proceedings of the symposium held last year will be released in book form as part of the unit’s publication series “Studies in Language Policy in South Africa”, published by Van Schaik Publishers.

This sixth issue in the series entitled: “Multilingualism and Exclusion. Policy, Practice, Prospects” will be released tonight (26 November 2007) by the Permanent Deputy of the Province of Antwerp at a prestigious event during the colloquium. The issue was edited by Prof. Du Plessis, Prof. Pol Cuvelier (University of Antwerp), Dr Michael Meeuwis (University of Ghent) and Ms Lut Teck (Institute for Higher Education and the Arts in Brussels).

The UFS will be represented by Prof. Du Plessis, Prof. Johan Lubbe, Ms Susan Lombaard and Mr Roelof Geyser of the Unit for Language Management, as well as Prof. Jackie Naudé of the Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice. Representatives from the universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, North West and the Monash University in Johannesburg will also be participating in the colloquium.

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
26 November 2007

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