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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

Department of Anaesthesiology integral to success of annual congress of South African Society of Anaesthesiologists
2016-03-18

The honour of hosting the annual congress of South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) fell to the Free State branch this year. Integral to organising the event –and even more so, successfully convening more than 550 delegates from across the country – was the University of the Free Sate (UFS) Department of Anaesthesiology.

Perioperative medicine

The main theme of the congress that took place from 26 February–1 March 2016 focused on perioperative medicine. This relates to medical practice before, during, and after surgery, that enhances the hospital experience for patients. This includes making their stay as short and pleasant as possible. Anaesthesiologists are perioperative physicians who are well positioned to play a major role in this process.

International specialists

Prof Henrik Kehlet was the official SASA Guest for 2016 and keynote speaker of the congress. He is currently a professor of perioperative therapy at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. Prof Kehlet has received honorary recognition from various colleges and associations in America and the United Kingdom. He has published over 1000 scientific articles, and is known as the worldwide expert on fast-track surgery, with the aim of achieving fast and pain-free operations.

Workshops on various aspects of perioperative care were presented during the congress with 41 companies exhibiting medical equipment and medicines related to anaesthesia. With 14 international and 69 national speakers, the event brought together some of the top specialists in the world.

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