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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

Fun in the sun at first-years swimming gala
2016-02-12

Description: Swimming Gala Tags: Swimming Gala

Residences of the University of the Free State showed off their colours and cheered their swimmers to victory at the first-year swimming gala on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

The first-year students’ swimming gala is always a much-anticipated event, especially after the participants have rubbed shoulders with residence competitors at the first-year athletics. This year’s gala, which took place on 5 February 2016 at the Lindsay Saker swimming pool on the Bloemfontein Campus, proved as exhilarating as always.

The body painting competition, held through the University of the Free State Student Representative Council (SRC) portfolio of Media & Marketing, and sponsored by ABSA, was re-introduced.

Colleges in colour

Before the swimming, spectators had the opportunity to look at the body painting creations presented by each college. Colleges chose one of ten themes randomly. Nonetheless, true artistry was on display. South College were awarded the body painting floating trophy.

When asked about this year's competition, SRC Media & Marketing, Peo Segano, had this to say: "I questioned the relevance of it, but I got the opinion of the residence committees and how they felt about it.
“The majority voted for it to be re-introduced, and ABSA was more than happy to sponsor the paints and some treats.”

Description: Swimming gala video photo Tags: Swimming gala

Video clip

Soon after that, it was down to the business. The swimming started, and each residence was cheering ecstatically for their fellow freshmen as everyone waited in anticipation to see who would be crowned the kings or queens of the water.

Kings and queens of the water

Although many had sung their voices away, they continued to show their spirit through dance and movement. Then, residences were ready to hear whether it had all paid off. Armentum showed consistent effort in this regard, thus ensuring them of the spirit trophy.

To close off the festivities, the final announcements were made. Sonnedou was crowned the female residence winners, while Abraham Fischer (Vishuis) received the title of best male residence.

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