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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

RAG resilience shines despite rain
2017-02-07

Description: Rag 2017 Tags: Rag 2017

Winning float for 2017: Armentum, Vergeet-My-Nie,
and Emily
Photo: Lelanie de Wet 

Although the 75th RAG festivities were challenged by ominous weather, in true Kovsie spirit students and organisers still made a gleaming success of the day. 

Students help to create sunny feeling
On 6 February 2017, the annual float-building activities culminated in the handing over of schoolbags to 150 learners from schools in and around Bloemfontein. This took place at the Rag Farm on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free (UFS), since the morning procession to Twin City Mall in Heidedal had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

“It is of course a huge disappointment to all of us that the events had to be cancelled, but we are grateful for the rain,” said Karen Scheepers, Head of Kovsie Rag Community Service and Assistant Director: Student Affairs.

The evening KFC Rag procession took place as planned, with students having the option of taking part despite the weather. Unfortunately, the Chevrolet Music Festival had to be cancelled.

“The very important actors of today are our students who have worked long hours to build the floats and who have worked together to make this rainy day on the outside feel sunny inside,” said Prof Francis Petersen, incoming UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector, when he addressed the crowd at the Rag Farm. Prof Petersen will take up office on 1 April 2017.

Armentum, Vergeet-My-Nie, and Emily take honours
Armentum, Vergeet-My-Nie, and Emily Hobhouse were the overall winners of the 2017 Rag float-building. “It was worth the hard work. Always remember to ask for advice during float-building,” said Pieter Kotze, RC Rag of Armentum residence on the Bloemfontein Campus. “I also want to thank both the RC Rag from Vergeet-My-Nie and Emily Hobhouse.”

The float theme was Proudly South African, and the winning float encapsulated it with local flavours such as Chappies, a Rooibos tea box and a Lion matchsticks box. They also went the extra mile by incorporating each hostel’s logo within a Chappie design.

The Central Rag Committee would like to thank all their sponsors who made the events possible. The Rag Coronation Ball will take place on 17 February 2017, where the new Rag Queen and Mr Rag will be crowned.

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