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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

Situation on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus under control after further disruptions
2016-02-23

State of our campuses #8

Further disruptions occurred on the Bloemfontein Campus of the UFS today after clashes between students on the campus last night. Members of the Public Order Policing had to disperse some students and the situation was stabilised in the early hours of the morning. No one was arrested and no major injuries occurred.

The clashes erupted last night after a group of protesters moved on to the field and disrupted a Varsity Cup rugby match that was already under way between the FNB Shimlas and the FNB Madibaz at Xerox Shimla Park. Subsequently the protesters were assaulted by some spectators who also ran on to the field.

Disruption continued this morning when students damaged some university property. Additional reinforcements from the South African Police Service were brought in to stabilise the campus. Some outsourced contract workers and students are still demonstrating outside the Main Gate of the campus on Nelson Mandela Avenue. The campus is relatively calm now and matters are under control.
The safety of students in residences on campus is the major concern for the senior leadership of the university and extra care is being taken to ensure their safety. In one case a residence had to be vacated and alternative accommodation was arranged for the students. The situation is under control in other residences. 

The Bloemfontein and South Campuses are closed from 23 to 24 February 2016 and no academic and administrative services are available.

Members of the university’s Protection Services and the South African Police Service are on the Bloemfontein Campus and are monitoring the situation closely.

A comprehensive investigation about the course of events that took place on the Bloemfontein Campus since yesterday morning continues.

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