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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 have a responsibility in SA, says Ntuli
2016-02-19

Description: 2016 SRC presidents Tags: 2016 SRC presidents

Lindokuhle Ntuli (left), President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), and Paseka Sikhosana, president of the SRC on the Qwaqwa Campus, are in agreement about their vision for the UFS in 2016.
Photo: Johan Roux

You and I have a role to play in building the new South Africa built upon the Constitution of 1996.

These are the words of Lindokuhle Ntuli, President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). They echo his and the SRC’s message of a “campus for all students, locally and internationally, irrespective of colour.”

Ntuli and Paseka Sikhosana, president of the SRC on the Qwaqwa Campus, were in agreement about their vision for the UFS in 2016.

According to Sikhosana, a well-known slogan accentuates a feeling of uniqueness at the university. “United in diversity. No wonder we say only a Kovsie knows a feeling,” he says.

“As the SRC, we believe that complete transformation on campus is through promoting a non-sexist, non-racial, but democratic student society that acknowledges diversity and change. That further promotes and embraces one student’s difference in terms of culture, tradition, religion, and sexual orientation.”

A new South Africa

Ntuli means students have a responsibility. He referred to a quotation from Frantz Fanon’s book, The Wretched of the Earth, to illustrate this. Fanon was a revolutionary and writer whose works are influential in post-colonial studies. “Every generation has a mission. It is the responsibility of every generation to discover its mission. Once you have discovered it, you have to fulfil it or betray it into relative obscurity,” Ntuli quoted.

According to him, the South African Constitution holds pious promises of a better life for all, and each citizen needs to help to achieve that.

SRC has open door policy 

Ntuli says the UFS remains committed to human embrace, diversity, integration, and human togetherness. He added that the SRC has an open door policy, and will avail itself in helping students.

According to Sikhosana, it is the objective of the SRC to represent the student community in all interactions within the university and externally.

“There is nothing for us, about us, without us students,” he says.

• The above excerpts have been taken from Ntuli and Sikhosana’s respective welcoming speeches to first-year students on the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses.

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