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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

Protest actions planned for 12-14 March 2008
2008-03-13

Three protest actions will take place on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein this week.

Although the interim court interdict granted to the UFS on 6 March 2008 is still in force, permission for the three protests was granted by the Mangaung Local Municipality and the court, in the presence of the university lawyer. Strict conditions have been set for these protest actions.

The UFS management respects the right to peaceful protest and also shares the sentiment of the protesters regarding the reprehensible Reitz video. However, strict conditions have been set for these protest actions as students are writing tests and the normal academic activities should not be disrupted.

Already the first picket protest took place today, Wednesday, 12 March 2008, by about 300 Satawu and Nehawu members. This was not a march and no memorandum was handed over.

On Thursday, 13 March 2008, Nehawu will again picket in front of the Main Building from 13:00 to 14:00. This event must be peaceful. This too is not a march and no memorandum will be handed over.

On Friday, 14 March 2008, a march of Cosatu and Nehawu will take place, starting in the city centre. The march will enter through the Nelson Mandela Drive gate and will enter the campus grounds.

However, it will be limited to the incoming lane of Chancellors Avenue from the Main Gate to the crossing with Alumni Avenue (in front of the Odeion building). Speeches will be made and a memorandum will be handed over.

It is expected that the march will reach the campus at approximately 10:00 and from then the Nelson Mandela Gate to the UFS will be closed for all traffic. The march must end by 14:00. The marchers will return to the city centre and may cause a traffic problem in Nelson Mandela Drive.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the UFS’s Protection Services Division will monitor all these actions. Staff, students and visitors to the campus are kindly requested to use alternative gates to the Nelson Mandela entrance on Friday. Academic activities will continue as normal this week.

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


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