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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

School of Medicine boasts with a new unit
2013-02-22

 

New Clinical Skills Simulation unit is one of its kind.
Photo: Supplied
22 February 2013


The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) can now boasts with a new Medical Clinical Skills Simulation unit (MCSU) at the School of Medicine.

This newly established Clinical Simulation Unit is the first dedicated clinical simulation unit of its kind in South Africa. It was opened on Thursday 21 February 2013.

This facility is equipped with an operating theatre, Intensive Care Unit, two simulation and three private rooms.

In addition, the Unit has control rooms with cameras for recording purposes and debriefing facilities, the latter with video equipment for playback of recorded scenarios.

The Simulation Unit at the UFS’ School of Medicine is based on accredited units in the USA and the UK.

Dr Mathys Labuschagne, Head of the Simulation Unit, says the concept for this kind of unit is still new, but is already a very important part of clinical skills training in the health professions.

“We are the only university in South Africa with a unit dedicated to clinical skills simulation only and not a combination of clinical skills training which includes some simulation.”

The primary goal of the MCSU is to provide educational opportunities to undergraduate and postgraduate medical students, as well as opportunities for other healthcare students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, to be exposed to inter-professional skills training. The MCSU will play a role in quality assurance of training and assessment, as well as research.

The aim of the Clinical Simulation Unit is to provide a facility where medical and other healthcare students or professionals can be exposed to:

  • Training in a safe environment.
  • Training without harm to the patient.
  • Scenario-based learning.
  • Debriefing.

The facility will also be utilised for post-qualification refresher and training courses.

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