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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

Joint statement by UFS management, SRC and residence leadership
2008-02-22

At a meeting between the top management and Student Representative Council (SRC) executive, residence managers and the student leadership of residences all those present committed themselves to increasing the diversity of the student residences at the UFS.

All those present at the meeting held on Friday afternoon (22 February 2008) condemned the violence that took place on the campus on Wednesday night and committed themselves to respect the rule of law.

All those present acknowledged that much needs to be done with regard to the implementation of the integration in student residences.

The memorandum from primes (the student heads of residences) that was submitted to management on Wednesday was discussed.

After a lengthy discussion, some of the issues raised in the memorandum were resolved and parties agreed that outstanding issues will receive urgent attention.
Management undertook to provide a comprehensive written response to the memorandum of the primes by Monday next week (25 February 2008).
 

At the end of the meeting management and the student leadership committed themselves to working together in the interest of the University, to work closely towards addressing problem issues and to improve communication between students and management and vice versa.
 

For more information contact Anton Fisher, Director: Strategic Communication, UFS. on 072-207-8334.

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  
22 February 2008

 

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