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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

Statement by the senior leadership of the University of the Free State
2016-02-29

Statement by the senior leadership of the University of the Free State regarding the situation on the Bloemfontein Campus 

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

In light of the recent incidents on the Bloemfontein Campus, the university leadership would like to address the understandable concerns of students, staff and the general public. The university obviously respects the rights of individuals to freedom of speech and expression, but notes that these rights are subject to reasonable limitation, and cannot extend to justifying criminal acts.

The Bloemfontein Campus is secure and security measures have been doubled up to ensure the safety of students, staff and public property. The court interdict is in place and will be enacted if required. Unlawful disruptions, including those involving criminal conduct, will not be tolerated.

The university strongly condemns the unlawful and unacceptable conduct by students, protesting outsourced workers, and visitors to its campus during the past week, and in particular the assault on protestors at Xerox Shimla Park on Monday 22 February 2016 during a Varsity Cup rugby match between the FNB Shimlas and FNB Madibaz. The university has started a comprehensive and independent investigation into criminal activities on this campus before, during and after the Xerox Shimla Park events.

The university regrets the destruction of public property and the intimidation of staff and students which led to the shutdown of academic and administrative activities on the Bloemfontein Campus. Extensive investigations are underway to identify the perpetrators who took part in all incidents of disruption and criminal conduct, and urgent steps will be taken against such individuals or organisations in due course.

The university leadership remains deeply concerned about a dangerous and damaging allegation that a lecturer was identified on a widely circulated photograph while assaulting a protestor at the Varsity Cup rugby match on Monday 22 February 2016. The university diligently investigated this allegation and found it to be false; the individual is NOT a member of the UFS staff. A suspect was however identified and evidence handed over to the South African Police Services (SAPS) for urgent action.

It has further come to the attention of the university management that a number of individuals and organisations continue to make blatantly false and defamatory statements on social media platforms with the intention of inciting criminal conduct, threatening individuals, and spreading fear within the university community in order to unsettle the campus. Investigations are at an advanced stage to prosecute individuals and groups involved in such criminal conduct in the social media; both those who post these statements and those who repost or retweet them, are liable under the law.

Should you wish to confirm whether there is any truth attached to a circulated rumour or allegation, please call +27(0)51 401 2911, +27(0)51 401 2634 or send an email to news@ufs.ac.za. Legal steps will be taken against individuals and organisations that persist in circulating such misleading and damaging statements.
    
The UFS urges all individuals who are in possession of evidence or knowledge of any crimes that have been committed on the Bloemfontein Campus in the past week, to come forward with such evidence and information and to call the numbers indicated above or to send an email to news@ufs.ac.za. Any individuals who are in possession of video footage and photographs of the incidents at Xerox Shimla Park, the Equitas Building (formerly known as the CR Swart Building), Thakaneng Bridge, various residences, the Main Building and the grounds in front of the building, are requested to provide such evidence in order to assist with the identification of those involved in criminal acts.

The university leadership remains committed to its duty to act in the best interests of its students and staff and calls on its community and the public to act peacefully at all times and respect the rights of others.

Issued by: Lacea Loader
(Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Email: news@ufs.ac.za

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