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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

Strong support for march against gender violence
2013-02-27

 

A huge group of students, led by the Student Representative Council, took part in the "Enough is Enough: Are you man Enough?" march on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux
25 February 2013

   YouTube Video: "Enough is Enough" Harlem shake

   YouTube Video: "Enough is Enough" protest

Enough is enough. The UFS took a vocal and visual stand against gender violence and rape with a march joining the national protest movement. With banners reading: ‘No to rape,’ ‘Stop sexual terrorism’ and ‘Enough is enough’, hundreds of Kovsie men and women took part in the Enough is Enough: Are you man Enough march held on the Bloemfontein Campus. Led by Mr Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs, staff and students, mostly men, told the world what they think about the scourge of violence and rape in the country.

Addressing protestors, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, highlighted shocking rape statistics, saying that it is dangerous to be a woman these days with a woman raped every minute somewhere in the country. “Women can hardly breathe without being worried.Culture has deceived our young men. The country is experiencing a tragic time. We need to raise our children, mostly boys, to respect women from an early age. They must also learn how to deal with their emotions – boys must learn how to cry.”

Joining Prof Jansen on stage was the Student Representative Council (SRC) presidents of three universities in South Africa – William Clayton from the UFS, Horne Hallendorff from the University of Cape Town and Clinton du Preez from Stellenbosch University. “Enough is indeed enough and men should take their role seriously to ensure that we say NO to gender violence and rape against women,” Clinton told protestors.

At the request of the Dean of Student Affairs, all the men that were present kneeled as a sign of apology of the selfish acts of men against women.

The university will continue the fight against gender violence with a series of dialogues creating awareness, but also facilitating broader understanding of gender violence.

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