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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

New residence planned for UFS South Campus
2015-05-14

The newly-planned residence
Illustration: Typology Architects

The South Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein has seen a great influx of students in recent years. This campus provides academic access to the UFS for deserving matriculants who do not meet the requirements for entry into mainstream degree studies through the University Preparation Programme and Extended Degree Programmes.

In addition, it also offers studies to long-distance learners. The current number of contact students – those who physically attend class at the South Campus – stands at 1 673. At the moment these students stay either on the Bloemfontein Campus or in private accommodation. This is about to change as a new residence is being built for the South Campus.

The newly-planned residence will provide two hundred and fifty beds within two main blocks – each consisting of three floors. Since the campus is located in a predominately industrial area with very few housing facilities in the area, this will fill the urgent need for accommodation.

Each floor of the residence will consist of two wings with forty beds and twenty double rooms. In addition, each floor will have separate laundry/drying and cleaners’ facility shared by both wings on that floor. Each wing will have its own ablution block, study room, communal lounge, and kitchen.

Four separate single-room flats will also be available – each sharing a lounge, kitchen, and bathroom, with a laundry facility separate from that of the main blocks.

The building project is scheduled for completion by the end of June 2016.

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