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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

Fresh new look for UFS Sasol Library
2013-02-28

The revamped entrance area of the UFS Sasol Library.
14 March 2013
Photo: Johan Roux
The UFS Sasol Library on the Bloemfontein Campus has been given a new lease on life with a fresh new look to cater for the changing study needs of students. Over the last few months several upgrades have been made to ensure that students get an effective learning experience.

These upgrades will be spread over three phases. Upgrades include newly-built overnight study facilities, partitioned study areas for postgraduate students and areas for leisure reading. Special attention has also been given to security, with the access control system and the tattle-tape security system being moved to the foyer on Level 2. This level, which used to serve only as a thoroughfare to and from the eastern and western parts of the library, has been turned into proper foyers on either side.

"The UFS Library and Information Services are on a mission to present itself as the physical and virtual information hub of choice," says Director Betsy Eister.  "The increased intake of new students and technological developments has sparked the notion of new and revamped study spaces conducive to learning.”

Eister says that, after completion of all three phases, the library will have increased study spaces that appeal to different people with different needs – spaces for studying, leisure reading, newspaper reading, accessing wired and wireless connections and spaces for discussions.

The project which started in October 2012 is part of the university's space planning projects to optimally utilise space on the Bloemfontein Campus. The project will also see the Centre for Teaching and Learning move to level three of the library.

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