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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

Video made by a student residence
2008-02-27

Statement by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Frederick Fourie

A video, made by residents of the Reitz men’s residence on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein, surfaced this morning (Tuesday, 26 February 2008) and was brought to my attention.

The Executive Management (EM) of the UFS condemns this video in the strongest possible terms as a gross violation of the human dignity of the workers involved.

We have immediately started with a most urgent investigation into this matter. The students involved have been identified and we are going to take steps to suspend them.

We are also going to lay criminal charges with the South African Police Service against the students concerned.

I am deeply saddened that students apparently see nothing wrong in producing such an offensive and degrading video. I have publicly said several times that the UFS is not a place for racism.

The UFS does not want such actions and people who indulge in it, on our campus.

The fact that it is openly linked to the integration process in UFS residences is also most disturbing.

I want to apologise to our colleagues who were unwittingly involved in this video and to the broader South African public.

Our staff unions Nehawu and Uvpersu have also condemned this incident.

The university is going through a difficult time with its efforts to racially integrate its residences and to create a new residence culture based on diversity, respect, human dignity and human rights.

These kinds of actions make it all the more important that we succeed with establishing such a new institutional culture on the campus.

I appeal to all staff and students to remain calm and to act in the best interests of the university.

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  
26 February 2008

 

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