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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

Kovsies defend tennis title in Sun City
2017-04-01

 Description: 'Kovsie Tennis Sun City Tags: Kovsie Tennis Sun City

The first and second tennis teams of the University of the
Free State 
were first and fifth respectively among the 14
teams competing 
in the Egalite Invitational challenge.
Photo: Arne Nel

Although a tournament victory was not the Kovsie tennis team’s main goal, they still managed to outplay the best in the country.

The first team of the University of the Free State (UFS), who have been the champions of the combined USSA format for the past six years, successfully defended its title to end the Egalite Invitational challenge in Sun City unbeaten.

Second team also performing well

On 26 March 2017, the Kovsie first team defeated Puk’s first team 35-20 (games) in the final. Their second team also performed well and won against Tuks’ second team 31-21 to end fifth among the 14 teams. The matches in the tournament, which took place from 24 to 26 March 2017, were played in World Team Tennis format.

In the group stages, the Kovsie first team beat Puk’s second (35-12), Puk’s fourth (35-8), Tuks’ second (35-12), Maties’ first (31-19), Puk’s sixth (35-5), and Tuks’ third (32-16) teams. The team consists of Arne Nel, Christo Koekemoer, Emke Kruger, Lienke de Kock, Ansunica Brits, and Reze Opperman.

Preparation for USSA

Apart from USSA, the Sun City tournament is the other major tournament in which the UFS annually competes. “Of course you want to win, but unlike at USSA, this was not our main focus in Sun City,” says Janine de Kock, the Kovsie team manager. “We wanted to try new combinations and provide exposure to new players.”

A total of five of the 12 players in the two teams were newcomers. They are Lienke de Kock (first team), Handré Hoffman, JC Conradie, Brieta Pienaar, and Daniel de Villiers (all second team). According to Janine de Kock, it was especially important to test new doubles combinations before USSA.

“We always knew the first team is a good team with a chance, but we are very impressed with the second team’s fifth place.”

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