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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

UFS apologises for noise disturbance during newcomers' student festival
2010-02-01

Last night (Saturday, 30 January 2010), the University of the Free State (UFS) received various complaints regarding disturbance caused by the noise during a student function that took place at the Rag Farm on the Main Campus.

"I wish to apologise on behalf of the UFS for the inconvenience that residents in the neighbouring residential areas had to suffer during the Newcomers’ Student Festival last night,” said Mr Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs at the UFS.

The function took place to conclude the welcoming period for new students. “Although strict measures applied regarding the staging of the event, amongst others, cut-off times for the performances of the guest artists and die organisation of the Rag Farm to prevent excessive noise, various unexpected factors made this difficult,” said Mr Buys.

One of the factors was the fact the more than double the expected number of spectators attended the event. As a result of this, measures pertaining to crowd control had to be adjusted. “Although we managed to end the event without any incidents, I am truly sorry that we could not bring the disturbance caused to the neighbouring suburbs to an end earlier,” he said.

“We are committed to finding a sustainable solution to those types of challenges that student events at the Rag Farm can offer to the neighbouring residential areas. Therefore we are going to call meetings with residents and community leaders of the residential areas in order to resolve the problems in a collaborative manner,” Mr Buys said.

An internal evaluation of the situation shall also be undertaken in order to rectify any possible errors or shortcomings in the organisation of the Newcomers’ Student Festival, as well as regarding the organisation of future student events.

“We would like to thank residents of the neighbouring residential areas for the exceptional way in which they often exercise patience, show understanding and make allowances for the times when student activities taking place on the Main Campus become demanding. It is therefore important for us to find solutions to challenges in this regard and engage in meaningful cooperation with residents,” said Mr Buys.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@ufs.ac.za
31 January 2010
 

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