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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

Five Kovsies competing at National Championship for Physically Disabled
2016-03-18

Description: CUADS Tags: CUADS

Students from the University of the Free State (UFS) will compete at the Nedbank National Championship for the Physically Disabled in Bloemfontein from 21–23 March 2016. From back left is Johann van Heerden, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, and Danie Breitenbach. Front from left is Louzanne Coetzee and Dineo Mokhosoa.
Photo: Jóhann Thormählen

Five students from the University of the Free State (UFS) will be taking part in the Nedbank National Championship for the Physically Disabled from 21–23 March 2016 in Bloemfontein. Dineo Mokhosoa, Juanré Jenkinson, Louzanne Coetzee, Danie Breitenbach and Johann van Heerden will represent the Free State at this event – one of the last opportunities to qualify for the Paralympic Games.

According to Martie Miranda, Head of the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) at the UFS, these students have shown they can achieve anything. “The Center for Universal Access and Disability Support is extremely proud of our students with disabilities who excel in sport and wish our students the best of luck with the national championships,” she said.“They confirm that ‘impossible’ is just a word.”

Most of the students already have excellent national and international rankings in their respective categories.

Mokhosoa (Cerebral Palsy), is ranked first in South Africa in discus, shot-put and long jump. This Social Work student also has two South African records in shot-put and long jump respectively behind her name. Jenkinson (Cerebral Palsy) is ranked eighth in the world in shot-put.

Coetzee (blind), who competes in the 800 m, 1 500 m and 5 000 m, is fifth in the world in the 800 m and ninth in the 1500 m. Breitenbach (blind) runs 400 m, 800 m and 1 500 m. Breitenbach, a Law student, is ranked fifth in the world in the 800 m.

Van Heerden (Cerebral Palsy) competes in swimming in the 50 m, 100 m and 200 m breaststroke. The Education student is ranked third in the 50 m, seventh in the 100 m and third in the 200 m in the world.

The Paralympic Games is taking place in September 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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