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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

Scientists discover a water reservoir beneath the Free State
2009-12-09

Dr Holger Sommer

The Mantle Research Group Bloemfontein (MRGB), under the leadership of Dr Holger Sommer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State (UFS), has discovered an enormous water reservoir 160 km beneath the Free State.

This discovery, according to Dr Sommer, is the first of its kind in South Africa after he had previously made a similar finding in Colorado, USA.

However, this water cannot be used for human consumption. “It is not frozen water; it is not molecular water; it is not fresh water; it is not salty water; it is OH – water which is sitting in the crystal lattice,” he said.

He said the reservoir was comparable in size to Lake Victoria in Tanzania.
The researchers collected eclogites from the Roberts Victor (Rovic) Mine close to the town of Boshof, south-west of the Free State, for their study.

“The Rovic eclogites are rocks which represent former oceanic crust transported into the earth’s interior by complex plate tectonic processes about 2.0 billion years ago,” explained Dr Sommer.

“These rocks were finally carried back to the earth’s surface by volcanic (kimberlite) eruptions around 130 million years ago. Eclogitic rocks are therefore a window into the Earth’s interior.”

The question from the beginning for all MRGB scientists was: Is there water inside these rocks in such depth, and if so, where is it located?

To answer this question, Dr Sommer and his research fellows separated single mineral grains from eclogite samples and prepared about 100 micrometer (0,1 mm) thick rock sections. Afterwards, specific particle accelerator (Synchrotron) measurements were carried out in the city of Karlsruhe in Germany.

“And indeed, the MRGB found water inside the studied rocks from the Roberts Victor Mine,” he said. “The water was located in defect structures in crystal lattices and along boundaries between single mineral grains.”

“The occurrence of water at such depth would give first evidence that all water of the oceans could be stored five to ten times in the earth’s mantle.”
The study was conducted about a year ago.
 

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt.stg@ufs.ac.za
4 December 2009

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