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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

Medical practitioners join forces to help students studying medicine with loans
2010-02-24

Medical practitioners from the University of the Free State’s Faculty of Health Sciences have established a loan fund for enrolled students studying medicine to assist them with their studies. This loan fund has paid out a total amount of R329 106,00 over the past three years.

During 2002 the faculty’s School of Medicine identified a gap in the awarding of bursaries to enrolled students studying medicine at the UFS.

Many students who follow the course M.B.Ch.B struggle to obtain bursaries and are often forced to cease their studies due to a lack of funds.

A group of medical practitioners addressed this gap by providing funds in the form of voluntary out-of-pocket contributions towards a study loan fund to deserving students. This fund has received over R1million in contributions over the years.

Although the loans do not cover the full costs of a particular student, it brings the necessary financial relief and enables the student to focus on his/her studies and at least register. It also gives the student the time at the beginning of the year to attain more money to study.

The loan is repayable as soon as the student is employed. Repayment is calculated on the income of the individual and is administrated by an outside organisation at a minimal interest rate that only kicks in when the loan becomes repayable.

The School of Medicine encourages students who qualify for this loan to seek alternative funding. In this way, more students can be supported annually.

Currently an average of eight to twelve students per year are helped from this loan fund.

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

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