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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

Kovsies raise their voice against gender violence
2013-02-25

25 February 2013 

On Wednesday 27 February 2013, Kovsie men and women will march to raise their voices against gender violence. They will be saying no to the scourge of violence and rape in the country. Showing solidarity with the late Anene Booysen and thousands other victims of gender violence, staff and students of the university will take part in the “Enough is Enough: Are you man Enough?” march.

An important feature of the march is that it will be men adding their voices to those of women supporting the call for action.

Dean of Student Affairs Rudi Buys, who will lead the march, says, “Protestors will use their bodies to say that they are against the continued and absolute annihilation of the dignity of the females in our country. It's a solidarity march with victims but also with perpetrators to show our shared complicities."

The university will kick-off of a month-long programme of in-depth conversations, not only creating awareness but also facilitating broader understanding of gender violence.

The march will start at 12:30 at the Main Gate of the Bloemfontein Campus and proceed to the Main Building. Those participating are encouraged to make posters or banners with supportive messages showing solidarity with the cause.

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