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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

Enough is enough, says students
2013-02-15

A student writes the name of a friend who has been a victim of rape, on the T-shirt worn by Mody Motholo – Former SRC interim president.
Photo: Jerry Mokoroane
14 February 2013



I am morally tied to stop rape”, students say

Kovsie student and former SRC Interim President Mody Motholo is creating awareness about rape with a campaign called “I am morally tied to stop rape”.

As part of the campaign Mody chained herself to a tree on the Bloemfontein Campus to show how many of our students and women are living in bondage as a result of this type of crime. Students walking past the campaign station interacted with Mody, who informed them about the rape issues affecting students across our country and how we can join hands to stop the increasing cases of rape, both reported and not reported.

Students could also write down the names of victims on her T-shirt, which will later be used as an indication of this terrible crime in our country. “The first name written on this T-shirt was that of the latest reported rape case, namely Anene Booysen who was brutally gang raped.

"Within an hour this T-shirt was covered in names, which was an indication to me of the seriousness of the problems some students who are victims of rape are struggling with around our campus,” said Mody.

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