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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

New champions crowned at first-year athletics
2017-02-03

Description:UFS first-year athletics  Tags: UFS first-year athletics  longdesc=

It was a day filled with excitement on and off the
track when the residences at the University of
the Free State competed against each other
during the first-year athletics event.
Photo: Charl Devenish

The University of the Free State’s first-year athletics is an institution. It is a day marked by colour, spirit, and hoarse voices, but in 2017 produced something different than the last couple of years.

For the first time in four years, new athletics champions were crowned in both the men’s and women’s sections when Veritas and Sonnedou walked away with the trophies at Pellies Park on the Bloemfontein Campus on 25 January 2017.

Wag-’n-Bietjie, Vishuis relinquish titles

Sonnedou, who came second in 2016, broke Wag-’n-Bietjie’s stronghold of the past six years by winning the women’s athletics trophy. Furthermore, Sonnedou won this trophy more than a decade ago – in 2004. Veritas, who won the men’s athletics trophy for the first time since 2011, also put a stop to Vishuis’s dominance. House Abraham Fischer has worn the athletics crown for the past three years.

This year, Vishuis (70 points) took second place after Veritas (76), with Armentum (61) third. Sonnedou (99 points) easily triumphed in the women’s division, while Akasia (36) and Wag-?-Bietjie (34) respectively took second and third place.

Veritas captures overall Spirit trophy

However, the event is about much more than the action on and around the athletics track. First-years also get the opportunity to show pride in their residences by shouting at the top of their lungs.

Veritas, better-known in recent years for its excellent sêr groups, asserted itself even more by being named as the overall winner of the Spirit trophy. This residence was also the winner of the men’s section. Harmony won the Spirit trophy for women’s residences, while Conlaurês was the co-ed residence with the greatest spirit.

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