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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

Department at the UFS receives special visitors
2008-02-26

 

From the left are: Prof. Hans Ausloos, Prof. Bénédicte Lemmelijn, and Prof. Fanie Snyman (Head of the Department of Old Testament at the UFS). Both Prof. Ausloos and Prof. Lemmelijn are professors in the Old Testament within the Bible Science Investigation Unit of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.
Photo: Lacea Loader
 

Department at the UFS receives special visitors

The Department of Old Testament in the Faculty of Theology at the University of the Free State (UFS) has for the first time received a visit from two guest professors from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU) in Belgium who are presenting undergraduate lectures.

What makes the visit even further unique is that the guest professors are a married couple who specialise in the Old Testament.

“Proff. Hans Ausloos and Bénédicte Lemmelijn are visiting the faculty for about a month to present undergraduate programmes. They are part of a co-operative agreement between the UFS and the KU Leuven. This is also a good way of giving our students exposure to European experts,” says Prof. Snyman, Head of the Department of Old Testament at the UFS.

The couple and their three children, Matthias (10), Elke (8) and Ruben (6), are staying in Prof. Daan Pienaar’s house for the duration of their stay. Prof. Pienaar is a retired professor in Biblical Science at the UFS. The children are at school in Universitas Primary School for the duration of the family’s stay in Bloemfontein. “The headmaster was very kind and provided them with school uniforms out of the school’s second hand clothing shop, of which they will not part easily as they do not wear school uniform in Belgium,” says Prof. Lemmelijn.

Proff. Lemmelijn and Ausloos cannot stop talking about the charm of the university’s Main Campus. “In Leuven the university is part of the city and the university buildings are situated amongst the city buildings. We do our shopping while the students move from one class to the other! Here, the university is a town on its own and the students are given the opportunity to socialise in a protected environment,” says Prof. Lemmelijn.

The couple is also just as impressed with Bloemfontein. “The safety issue in South Africa is accentuated in such a way in Europe that we are astounded by the peaceful and friendly atmosphere of the city. We are also surprised with the shopping centres that are under one roof. In Belgium the shops are situated far apart,” says Prof. Lemmelijn.

The couple finds the living costs – especially food – to be quite expensive. “Some basic food is even more expensive than it is in Belgium,” says Prof. Ausloos.

Over and above their commitment to lecture, the couple is also busy with research on the Greek translation of the 12 Small Prophets in co-operation with Prof. Snyman.

“This is the first time that lecturers from the KU Leuven visit the Department of Old Testament for such a long time and are part of the normal curriculum. It is interesting to note that the teaching modules between the two departments resemble each other in such a way that lectures which are presented in Leuven are also repeated here,” says Prof. Snyman.

Both Proff. Ausloos and Lemmelijn are professors in the Old Testament within the Bible Science Investigation Unit of the KU Leuven. They publish articles internationally on the editorial and text criticism of the Old Testament and are involved with international investigative programmes such as the Hexapla Project and Septuaginta-Deutsch. Prof. Ausloos is director of the Leuvense Centre for Septuagint Studies and Textual Criticism and Prof. Lemmelijn is an associate in the centre. Together they have published several financed investigative projects on the characterising of the translation technique of the Greek Bible translation.

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  
25 February 2008
 

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