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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

Forensic investigation at UFS Computer Services division in final stage of finalisation
2007-02-01

Statement by prof Niel Viljoen, Chief Director: Operations  
 
The case in which possible irregularities were investigated at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Computer Services Division at the end of 2005, and which led to two Deputy Directors’ compulsory leave pending an investigation, is making good progress and is in the final stage of finalisation.
 
One of the Deputy Directors resigned unconditionally a day before his disciplinary hearing was to take place. He is one of two staff members who were placed on compulsory leave after an internal investigation ordered by the UFS management indicated possible irregularities in the division.
 
“As a result of the extent of the case and the involvement of more than one local business, the investigation had a long course,” said Prof Viljoen.
 
“The Deputy Director who resigned would have appeared before a disciplinary committee with Judge Joos Hefer as chairperson on charges of misconduct, involving more than R500 000,” said Prof Viljoen.
 
“We are going ahead with the process of criminal prosecution against this person and a docket was opened at the commerce branch of the South African Police Services (SAPS).  A civil action to recover damages from him was started,” Prof Viljoen said.
 
With a couple of exceptions, the internal disciplinary process of the other persons involved in the case is also finalised. “The disciplinary hearing of the Deputy Director, who is still in the service of the UFS’s Computer Services division, is scheduled for May 2007. This person is still on compulsory leave,” Prof Viljoen said.
 
“To demonstrate our commitment to the enhancement of honest work ethics and to give to personnel and students a mechanism to bring any unethical business practices to the attention of the UFS management, a fraud hotline was installed last year. The hotline is operated 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year by KPMG,” Prof Viljoen said.
 
Prof Viljoen thanked everyone who was involved in the investigation for their cooperation. This includes staff as well as people from outside the UFS.  “We are committed to transparent corporate management. Any possible irregularities will be investigated and if staff or students are found guilty of any irregular behaviour, strict actions would be taken against these persons,” Prof Viljoen said.
 
Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel: (051) 401-2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@mail.ufs.ac.za
2 February 2007
 

 

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