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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

Academic and security arrangements on the Bloemfontein and South Campuses for the coming week
2016-02-28

All academic and administrative services on the Bloemfontein and South Campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) will resume on Monday 29 February 2016.

The following academic and security arrangements have been put in place:

1.    Academic arrangements:

It is important to remember that losing an academic week has major implications for all students, particularly for first-year students, and for purposes of academic planning. The university will therefore resume its normal work on Monday 29 February 2016. Losing any additional time will severely disadvantage students, especially those who desperately need the time to catch up with lectures ahead of the coming tests and examinations. Many more students will struggle to complete the academic year if any further time is lost.

In order to ensure that the academic work of the university is not undermined, the UFS will extend this academic term by one week.
This will allow the completion of the work scheduled for last week. Given the impact that disruptions had on the emotions and concentration of many of our students, academics are requested to manage the setting and re-setting of all tests and assignments scheduled for last week with sensitivity, and to be supportive of students as they re-start their academic work.  No student should be disadvantaged in terms of tests or assignments as a result of last week’s closure. We know you would do this anyway, but this is a reminder to all staff of what we expect to be a common approach and understanding on the part of lecturers.

We rely on the leadership of the deans in the seven faculties to support staff and students in dealing with the lost time in the most appropriate manner and in supporting all efforts to refocus energies on the academic project.

As the senior leadership and management of the university, we will continue to do everything in our power to make sure that the academic programme continues uninterrupted.

2.    Security arrangements:
The Bloemfontein Campus is secure and we have more than doubled the security arrangements, with the interdict firmly in place.

The university management condemns in the strongest possible terms the violence that took place at Xerox Shimla Park on the night of Monday 22 February 2016. It also condemns the disruptions of the university that followed Monday’s event, which resulted in the suspension of academic and administrative activities on the Bloemfontein Campus. In line with the terms of the interdict - and now that we are at full capacity to secure this very large and spread-out campus - the university will act swiftly and firmly if any protests or disruption recur.

The following security arrangements are in place:
2.1  Staff and students must have their staff and student cards with them when entering the campus. Passengers in motor vehicles will have to present their cards to security personnel before access could be granted. Security personnel will check this physically by verifying that each person has a valid staff or student card.

2.2  Buses will not be allowed to enter the campus and passengers will have to be dropped off outside the gates - passengers will enter through the turnstiles with their valid access cards. Anyone without a valid access card will have to go to the Visitors Centre and present positive proof of ID (SA ID, passport or driver’s licence).

2.3  Pedestrians will have to swipe their cards at the turnstiles at the gates. Those without cards will have to enter through the Visitors Centre by presenting positive proof of ID (SA ID, passport or driver’s licence).

2.4  Visitors must report to the Visitors Centre (at Gate 5 in DF Malherbe Drive) and present positive proof of ID (SA ID, passport or driver’s licence).

2.5  Due to anticipated delays, it is advised that people allow some additional time when planning their routes to campus and to also make use of the less busy gates, such as Gate 4 (Furstenburg Road) and Gate 2 (Roosmaryn Residence).

2.6  It is advised that walkways be used, especially at night, and that pedestrians should keep to areas that are well lit.

Security helpline: +27(0)51 401 2911 | +27(0)51 401 2634.
 

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