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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 NWU Intervarsity offers many firsts
2010-08-06

The Intervarsity between the University of the Free State (UFS) and North-West University (NWU) kicked off today.

“We are excited to present the 68th Intervarsity on our Main Campus in Bloemfontein and look forward to a weekend filled with various matches and events,” says Mr Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs at the UFS.

This year’s Intervarsity is boasting with a few new additions to the programme. “We have invited the other campuses of the NWU to join the Intervarsity and our Qwaqwa Campus was for the first time also involved. The additions to the programme include a major debating championship lead by our Debating Society as well as a Hip Hop event tomorrow afternoon,” says Mr Buys.

According to Mr Buys, this year as many as possible of the residences are involved in sporting events such as soccer, hockey, rugby and netball.

The UFS also made accommodation available to students from NWU in its residences and has re-introduced the Rag-Buddy-bus system to provide transport support to students who are attending private functions in Bloemfontein to ensure their safe return to the campus.

Mr Buys also indicated that: “Intervarsity should be a celebration of all aspects of student life and we aim to increase the variety of programmes and diversity of audiences that participate in our Intervarsity programmes.”

“All our students, staff and members of the public are invited to attend the various events and matches. I encourage you to be proud and worthy ambassadors of the university community,” he says.

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

 

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