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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

Students launch Water Collection Campaign for the province
2016-02-10

Description: 2016 02 Water Project Tags: Water Project
Caption: Water is life: give life by donating water.
Photo: Supplied.

Drought conditions have long been part of the Free State way of life. At present, water supplies are running at an all-time low. Immediate mass action needs to be taken.

In an attempt to win the battle against the water crisis currently affecting the Free State, students here at the University of the Free State (UFS) have launched the Water Collection Campaign, which is running from 8-12 February 2016.

The UFS Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Central Student Representative Council (CSRC), in partnership with Gift of the Givers Foundation, are urging fellow students and staff members on the Bloemfontein Campus to donate five litres of bottled still water.

“We urge students to take part in this campaign, and help us help those who are in dire need of this vital necessity. Share water, save a life!” said Muhammed Bhamjee, President of MSA.

Make a donation

Date:  8-11 February 2016

Time:  07:45-16:30

Place: SRC offices reception, Thakaneng Bridge.

On Friday 12 February 2016, donations may be made at the Centenary Complex from 15:00-17:00.


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