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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 has a contingency plan for load shedding
2008-02-13


The University of the Free State (UFS) has put in place a contingency plan to ensure that there is minimal disruption to the normal academic operations of its Main Campus in Bloemfontein whenever load shedding occurs.

The plan includes alternative arrangements for certain lectures that fall within the load-shedding schedule provided by Centlec, the emergency power generation for certain lecture halls and buildings, as well as the functioning of the UFS Sasol Library. This is in addition to emergency power equipment that has already been ordered for the larger lecture-hall complexes.

Fortunately, the Qwaqwa Campus has adequate emergency power generation capacity. The situation on the Vista Campus in Bloemfontein is being monitored, but the same guidelines will apply as on the Main Campus.

On the Main Campus in Bloemfontein the following alternative arrangements regarding the timetable for evening classes will come into effect when load shedding occurs:

  • An alternative module and venue timetable has been compiled so that classes that cannot take place on weekdays as a result of load shedding can be accommodated on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Classes that are presented in the timeslot 18:10 to 21:00 on Thursdays are alternatively accommodated in the same venues at the same times on a Friday.
  • Classes that take place in the timeslot 20:10 to 22:00 on Wednesdays are alternatively accommodated in the timeslot 08:10 to 12:00 on Saturdays, in a few cases in different venues from those scheduled initially.
  • After consultation with students, lecturers will decide whether the alternative timetable will apply when load shedding does indeed occur or whether the alternative timetable will be a permanent arrangement.

Some other steps that have been taken regarding the functioning of lecture halls include:

  • The design and installation of emergency power equipment in all the large lecture-hall complexes within the next few months. This includes the Examination Centre, Flippie Groenewoud Building, the Stabilis and Genmin lecture halls.
  • The ordering of a larger generator for the Agriculture Building to simultaneously provide essential research equipment such as refrigerators, ovens and glasshouses with emergency power.
  • An investigation into the optimal utilisation of present emergency power installations.
    The purchasing of loose standing equipment such as battery lights, uninterruptible power supplies, loose-standing generators, etc.

The UFS Sasol Library will continue as normal as far as possible though there may be some minor changes as a result of load shedding. The library has an emergency generator that will be used in the event of load shedding to allow students and other users to exit the library. If load shedding occurs during daylight hours, the library will remain open with limited services. If the load shedding occurs after 6 pm (18:00), all users will be allowed to exit and the library will remain closed until the next day.

A comprehensive investigation into the university’s preparedness for and management of long term power interruptions is also receiving attention.

More information on the contingency plan for load shedding can be obtained from the UFS website at www.ufs.ac.za/loadshedding.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
13 February 2008


 

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