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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

Varsity Cup rugby match between FNB Shimlas and FNB NMMU Madibaz disrupted
2016-02-21

State of our campuses #7

The Varsity Cup match between the FNB Shimlas and FNB NMMU Madibaz, which took place on 22 February 2016 at Xerox Shimla Park on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), was interrupted in the 17th minute when a group of protesters moved onto the field to disrupt the game, which was already in progress.
 
The rugby players of both teams, as well as the match officials, immediately cleared the field as the protesters moved across the field towards the halfway line. Members of the UFS Protection Services gathered around the protesters, but were outnumbered. After a few minutes, spectators ran onto the field. The protesters were chased off the field and beaten by the spectators. Injured persons were treated by medical personnel. It is clear at this time that both the protesting group and the spectators included non-students in their ranks.
 
The senior leadership of the UFS condemns in the strongest terms possible the violence against the protesters; nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands. An urgent investigation is underway, using footage from the event, and no stone will be left unturned to identify those who acted violently, whether students or not.


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