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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

Famous mineralogists visit UFS Geology
2017-04-25

Description: Famous mineralogists visits UFS Geology Tags: Famous mineralogists visits UFS Geology

From the left: Prof Marian Tredoux, Associate
Professor at the UFS Department of Geology;
Prof Giorgio Garuti; from the University of Leoben,
Dr Federica Zaccarini, also from the
University of Leoben and Dr Freddie Roelofse,
Head of the Department of Geology at the UFS.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin


Years of academic friendship and collaboration is what makes Prof Giorgio Garuti and Dr Federica Zaccarini return to the University of the Free State (UFS) every so often.

The world-renowned academic duo from the University of Leoben in Austria were guest lecturers at the UFS Department of Geology. “We are here because we have known Professor Marian Tredoux and the Geology Department, for a long time. We are really happy to be here, and to be given the opportunity to present talks,” said Dr Zaccarini. The two are experts in platinum-group element mineralogy and each has given their surname to minerals namely, the Garutiite and Zaccariniite minerals.

Visit great advantage for research

They are acclaimed experts on very small minerals (smaller than a hundredth of a millimetre) with emphasis on platinum group elements in chrome-rich rocks. “Their visit is a great advantage for us. We also conduct research on these minerals and can learn from them,” said Prof Marian Tredoux, affiliated researcher at the Department of Geology.

Dr Zaccarini gave a lecture on Chromitites, and associated platinum-group elements, in ophiolites on Wednesday 5 April 2017 and Dr Garuti presented a lecture on Uralian-Alaskan complexes: a puzzling source of platinum, on Thursday 6 April 2017. During the talks they examined the association of the platinum-group minerals with chromite, rather than sulphide, and how this association can lead to the formation of unusual platinum-group element ores.

Collaboration on various academic papers

They and Prof Tredoux have collaborated on various research articles over the past four years, which have been published in various important international scientific journals. “These journals play an important role in calculating the H-scale which measures how important a researcher’s work is on an international scale,” said Prof Tredoux.

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