The unexpected emergence of COVID-19 challenged the efficiency of the American healthcare system. Nearly all business sectors were harmed by the virus-caused lockdowns during which schools grappled with online lessons. Social workers – designated as essential workers – came for the nation’s rescue. They responded quickly to these unprecedented times and prepared people to adapt to the new norms.
One of the essential areas which initially suffered was the traditional schooling system, which took a nasty blow. However, a hybrid model with a practical approach became the need of the hour in such times. So, let’s discuss the role of social workers in promoting education during the pandemic.
Innovations in SW education mid-pandemic
The SW discipline goes back to 19th-century England. During the 20th century, social workers and primary caregivers collaborated to save people from the dangers of wars, famine, and diseases. Today, we see social workers helping people with anxiety and depression. As the pandemic spread to all four corners of the globe, quarantines and lockdowns worsened the nation’s mental health. Similarly, SW wasn’t immune to the impact of coronavirus. But social workers found ways to curb these effects.
To make things better, institutes adopted distance learning, and simultaneously, social workers also introduced innovative methods to continue educating students. They leveraged technology to resume social work’s educational campaigns. Many reputable universities now offer masters in social work online to expand their outreach for students. These digital lessons further enable them to continue their studies in the comfort of their homes. Further effects of SW on education during this pandemic are as follows:
- Introducing inclusivity:-
Even before the disaster struck, our country required more inclusivity in educational institutions. For the same purpose, social workers have promoted diversity and tolerance of all races/ethnicities since pre-COVID days. Inclusion contributes to the elimination of inequality toward students at schools/colleges.
- Proper intervention:-
Social workers and student counselors have advocated for better representation at schools/colleges. Since more social workers in academic institutes will lead more professionals for teachers and students’ families to contact for support. Similarly, SW experts can intervene when such actions have been deemed necessary. They also ensure that an at-risk student’s information remains confidential since SW work ethics teach professionals never to harm a client’s privacy.
- Cross-cultural practices:-
Students pursuing social work must understand the cross-cultural complexities associated with a client. In this method, an actor (pretending to be a client) narrates his/her story regarding culturally sensitive issues via digital means. Students suggest different approaches to use with this simulated client. This practice helps them develop cultural expressions to present such problems and analyze the situation without relying on repressive methods. So, they hone their problem-solving skills.
- Combating drugs abuse:-
Substance abuse has been a problem among adolescents even before COVID. Statistics show that, in 2017, some 4% of American youth suffered from this disorder, a few thousand less than a million! In the present, drugs/alcohol dependency has increased due to uncertainties about the future. Social workers – therefore – strive to help kids obsessed with drugs/alcohol. After identifying the victims of this disorder, SW experts help them overcome their addiction and find the right help.
- Virtual practices:-
Some social workers initiated these simulation-based activities in which students interacted with an actor (who plays the role of a client). Introduced in 2015 by Professor T. Kourgianatakis, this activity helps them practice their interviewing and observation skills. With evidence-based practices, such exercises enable students to improve their knowledge about SW procedures. Virtual techniques also allowed them to enhance self-awareness while developing self-judgment qualities gradually.
- Helping those at risk:-
Social workers assist students living in vulnerable situations; whose sufferings prevent their pursual of better educational options. They remove obstacles that restrict their learning opportunities. And these obstacles include poverty, discrimination, domestic violence, and others. SW ensures that students participate in educational programs without their race, gender, religion, social status, or sexual orientation holding them back.
- Emotional support:-
Social workers monitor a student’s emotional progress and behavioral well-being. They assess children’s mental health and recommend methods for parents/teachers to modify their attitude to improve their reflections upon the students. That’s how SW helps children’s emotional stability. Since – unlike medical emergencies – adults aren’t trained to identify symptoms of a child suffering from an emotional breakdown. A social worker is skilled enough to recognize the signs of distress and the need for treatment. COVID has seriously disturbed kids’ schedules and affected their mental health. In this regard, social workers help them recover so they’d perform better at school/college.
- Enabling the disabled:-
Finally, many students suffering from disabilities don’t understand what’s going on and why they’re studying online. Similarly, some children lack technological resources to attend digital lectures. We know that over 13% of American youngsters have no internet access at home. Hence, social workers collaborate with the relevant authorities to respond to these kids’ situations. Social workers contribute to creating policies that will ensure equal opportunities for all students in the future.
This pandemic brought the suppression of face-to-face academic activities across the world. Several countries were affected by an educational disruption. Everyone switched to distance learning from schoolgoing children to youngsters pursuing a higher qualification to continue their educational endeavors. In this regard, social workers offered their assistance to the academic community. Even though COVID-19 had affected them, some 75% of social workers admit that the coronavirus affected their mental well-being. But SW has contributed to the resumption of educational practices endangered by the pandemic. Hence, Social workers are still identifying the best practices for educating via virtual SW lessons.