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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

UFS urges individuals to come forward with evidence about incidents
2016-03-04

UFS urges individuals to come forward with evidence about incidents on the Bloemfontein Campus last week

The University of the Free State (UFS) condemns in the strongest terms the racist attacks on protestors, 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 from 23 to 26 February 2016. 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 UFS makes an urgent appeal to:

1.    All individuals who are in possession of evidence or knowledge of any crimes; assaults on students, staff, and visitors; the destruction of property; and intimidation that have been committed on the Bloemfontein Campus in the past week, to come forward with such evidence and information.

2.    All 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, to come forward and provide such evidence in order to assist with the identification of those involved in criminal acts.

Information can be provided by calling +27(0)72 490 6027 or +27(0)51 401 3422. Alternatively, an email can be sent to news@ufs.ac.za. All information will be treated as confidential, unless the individual providing the evidence is not opposed to testifying.

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