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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

Wayde Van Niekerk makes sprinting history
2016-03-13

He is the world champion in the 400 m, the South African Sports Star for 2015, and now Kovsie student Wayde van Niekerk has achieved something nobody else has done before.

On 12 March 2016, Van Niekerk became the first athlete in history to run the 100 m under 10 seconds, the 200 m under 20 seconds, and the 400 m under 44 seconds. Van Niekerk achieved this feat, which was confirmed by the IAAF, when he ran a personal best in the 100 m at the Free State Championships in his hometown of Bloemfontein.

His time of 9.98 seconds in the 100 m improved his previous best by 0.47 seconds. Van Niekerk ran his previous best back in 2011 and didn’t compete much in this event during the last couple of years.

“We, as the UFS leadership, are enormously proud of this historic achievement of Wayde, who embodies our values of academic commitment and human decency in every way,” said Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of the Free State (UFS).

He was congratulated by many people on social media over the weekend. AB de Villiers, the Proteas' test and one-day cricket captain, was one of a few well-known people who congratulated Van Niekerk on Twitter.
“@WaydeDreamer don’t know the man, but WOW. Take a bow,” De Villiers tweeted.

A humble Van Niekerk thanked De Villiers and wished him good luck for the upcoming T20 World Cup in India.

The 23-year old Van Niekerk said on his Instagram account that it was a childhood dream to run a sub 10, and expressed his thanks to his supporters.  

On 11 March 2016, Van Niekerk won the 200 m at the Free State Championships in 20.97 seconds. His best in this event is 19.94 seconds.

More articles:

Van Niekerk makes sprinting history in Bloemfontein (IAAF)

UFS community proud of Wayde’s hat trick of awards

Wayde nominated with SA’s best

Wayde one of the Adidas faces for Rio 2016

NBC tells Wayde’s story 

Wayde, Karla crowned as KovsieSport’s best

UFS congratulates Wayde van Niekerk and other students for their national and international

Kovsies Wayde van Niekerk wins gold at the IAAF World Championship

 

 

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