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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

Incident during FNB Shimlas and FNB Ikey Tigers Varsity Cup rugby match on 13 February 2017
2017-02-13

An incident involving a group of about 20 students of the University of the Free State (UFS) occurred at Xerox Shimla Park on the Bloemfontein Campus tonight.

The incident took place 10 minutes before the end of the match when the group moved through the entrance gates. The group requested the university management to suspend the match and to make a public announcement regarding the Shimla Park Report. The group was addressed at the spectator stands by the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Prof Nicky Morgan.

“This was an unfortunate incident that could have been avoided by way of earlier engagements. The Shimla Park Report was released to the student leadership structures as well as union and management structures earlier this month. The university management is of the opinion that it was unnecessary to interrupt a public event and has offered to meet with the leadership of the group about the involvement of students in the proposed actions and implementation of the recommendations mentioned in the report, as well as other transformation interventions at the UFS as decided by the Council,” said Prof Morgan.

The UFS gave an undertaking to the organisers of Varsity Cup and made the necessary contingency plans to ensure that the match was not disrupted. This included the presence of the university’s Protection Services and a standby unit of the South African Police Service.

The match was played until full-time, with the final score 22-7 in favour of the FNB Ikey Tigers.

 

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