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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

Charity indeed begins at home
2016-02-19

Description: KL News 2016 02 19 Rag Queen Tags: KL News 2016 02 19 Rag Queen
The winning duo: Stefan Lotter and Marzel van Zyl after being crowned Mr RAG and RAG Queen at the Brutal Fruit Coronation Ball. Photo: Sarel Greyling

Stefan Lotter and Marzel van Zyl were crowned Mr RAG and RAG Queen at the prestigious Brutal Fruit RAG Coronation Ball on 12 February 2016. For the last 10 months, these University of the Free State (UFS) students have been collecting funds for community projects in the Free State.

Capitalise on existing platforms

Although they are patrons of charitable organisations external to the university, Stefan and Marzel revised their strategy to prioritise the UFS. “Some students on campus struggle, and, because charity begins at home, we will try to help the No Student Hungry and Right to Learn campaigns,” said Stefan.

However, he will continue to support the Northern Free State Caregivers, a 24-hour nursing service for terminally ill patients, for which he collected R15 000. For her part, Marzel was able to collect more than R20 000 for the Free State Residential Care Centre, which houses mentally challenged adults, and also hosts a skills development programme. The Centre’s baking workshop had to discontinue due to a lack of funding, but Marzel hopes that her contributions will bring about its revival and sustenance.

Bringing home the money

The winning duo are expected to represent our university at Mr & Miss SA Campus South Africa 2016.  According to Stefan, they plan “to push the RAG agenda there and bring money back home,” at this charity-based pageant.

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