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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

Vishuis secure fifth Varsity Cup title and seventh for UFS
2017-04-21

Description: Vishuis Varsity Cup Tags: Vishuis Varsity Cup

Wian van der Watt scored a try for Vishuis
during the Koshuis final of the Varsity Cup
against Patria. The centre was also crowned
Player of the Tournament in the residence
league.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA


The right attitude, a special group of players, and pride to represent their residence. According to Stephen Botha, Vishuis rugby captain, these were the ingredients for his team’s Varsity Cup success as they claimed a fifth national title.

The residence on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) was crowned Koshuis Champions of the Varsity Cup for a second consecutive year. In a repeat of last year’s final, they beat Patria from Pukke (25-10) on 17 April 2017 in Pretoria.
    
University continues national supremacy
Abraham Fischer not only staked its claim again as the most successful residence rugby team in South Africa, but also continued the supremacy of the UFS. The university has been national champions seven out of the ten years of the tournament. Armentum and Legatum were also champions.

“I always say that whoever wins the final of the residence league here, will probably win the Varsity Cup,” Botha says.

Team prepared for finals rugby
He attributes the success to his team’s positive attitude. “Even when we were doing fitness, the guys never complained and never asked how much more we have to do. They just did it."

“I always say that whoever
wins the final of the residence
league here, will probably win
the Varsity Cup,” Botha says.

Vishuis never seemed under too much pressure in the final. Their forwards laid a solid foundation, having the upper hand in the scrums, line-outs, and driving mauls. Although Vishuis is renowned for running rugby, Botha says his team prepared for finals rugby. “We decided to stick to the basics and not to play too risky.”

However, they lost their last league match against Sonop from Tukkies (21-23). Botha agrees that it might have been the right thing before the final. “Like I always say: ‘Every setback is a set up for a great comeback’”.

•    Vishuis centre Wian van der Watt was chosen as the Koshuis Player of the Tournament, while two Shimla flankers, Daniel Maartens and Phumzile Maqondwana, were included in the Varsity Cup Dream Team.

 

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