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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 Ground Studies Laboratory receives accreditation to international standard
2016-03-18

Description: IGS Tags: IGS

Lore-Mari Deysel, Deputy-Director of the institute for Groundwater Studies.
Photo: Charl Devenish

The Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS) Laboratory at the University of the Free State is on equal footing with international testing labs. With its accreditation in March 2016 by SANAS (South African National Accreditation System), the IGS Laboratory now officially meets global standards.

Quality of water

The IGS Laboratory mainly analyses the quality of water samples. When it was originally established in 1989, the lab’s central function was to conduct testing for researchers at the institute itself. “After the public and water boards realised their need to analyse water samples, the IGS Laboratory expanded to deliver a service to these clients,” says Lore-Mari Deysel, Deputy-Director of the institute.

Since suppliers and regulatory authorities will not accept test or calibration results from a lab that is not accredited, the IGS initiated the accreditation process.

Accreditation to international standard


In order to be deemed technically competent and able to receive accreditation, labs must meet the ISO/IEC 17025 standard. ISO/IEC 17025 was first issued in 1999 by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).According to Deysel, this is the single most important standard for calibration and testing laboratories around the world.

“Laboratories that are accredited to this international standard have demonstrated that they are technically competent and able to produce precise and accurate test and/or calibration data. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the university has the capacity to supply valuable and reliable services alongside the academy,” Deysel says.

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