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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

Exercise is medicine
2013-02-20

 

The Health and Wellness team teaches the UFS how to stay healthy.
Photo: Lelanie de Wet

20 February 2013

Staff and students were sweating it out on Wednesday 20 February during the annual Exercise is Medicine campaign.

This international campaign to promote healthy living and create exercise awareness at participating companies, was launched for the first time on African soil last year at the UFS.

Exercise is Medicine is an initiative which encourages health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients. The programme was designed by the American College of Sports Medicine and it has a presence in countries such as Australia, Italy, China and Brazil.

As part of the programme launch, staff and students will attend presentations by prominent health practitioners and participate in a range of fitness activities, such as Taebo and Zumba.

The Wellness Division of the Centre for Health and Wellness has more activities planned for the rest of the year to keep Kovsies healthy.

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