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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

Student protest against integration of the Main Campus residences
2008-02-21

The management of the University of the Free State (UFS) is extremely concerned about the actions of some of our students who have committed public violence, crimen injuria and damage to property last night (Wednesday, 20 February 2008) on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.

The management condemns these criminal acts in the strongest terms. We are concerned about what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to frustrate the implementation of the new residence policy on diversity.

We remain committed to ensuring a safe campus for staff and students to engage in the academic activities of the UFS and will take the necessary legal steps to avoid a repeat of these incidents.

Normal academic and other activities are continuing and have not been disrupted. We are appealing to all staff and students to remain calm.

We note the contents of a memorandum that was handed to the management regarding the integration of our student residences.

We remain committed to the implementation of the Council approved policy on increasing diversity in our residences as part of a new institutional culture for the UFS.

We also remain committed to engaging with students on these and other matters. In fact, several meetings have taken place over the past few weeks with the Student Representative Council (SRC) and with primes about student issues.

We would like to appeal to student leaders to follow the established channels to address their concerns.

These channels have been successful in the past in addressing student concerns and we see no reason why they cannot succeed in the current situation.

The management will meet with student leaders as soon as is possible to engage with students on these matters.

However we want to reiterate that criminal behaviour and misconduct will not be tolerated.

Media Release
Issued by: Anton Fisher
Director: Strategic Communication
Tel: 051 401 3422
Cell: 072 207 8334
E-mail: fishera.stg@ufs.ac.za  
21 February 2008
 

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