Social work

North West University leads first environmental social work study in South Africa

Climate change, environmental destruction and the collapse of biodiversity pose a serious threat to the planet and to humanity, and in particular to poor and marginalized communities.

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Climate change, environmental destruction and the collapse of biodiversity pose a serious threat to the planet and to humanity, and in particular to poor and marginalized communities. Image: Image Bank
Source: Getty Images

The threat may be even greater for citizens of South Africa, as the Southern African region has been identified as a hotspot. In recent years, South Africa has experienced significant changes in weather patterns, fueling concerns about their impact on vulnerable people. This, in turn, gave rise to a new branch of social work known as environmental social work (ESW).

A North West University researcher, Linda Arkert, conducted the first South African study exploring social work educators’ perceptions of the importance and relevance of ESW in that country.

The study was carried out by the Center for Child, Youth and Family Studies at North West University, based in Wellington in the Western Cape. Dr. Issie Jacobs was the supervisor.

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Social work scholars from six universities participated in semi-structured interviews, and the data was then analyzed by theme.

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The results

  • Social work scholars consider ESW important, and some are even slowly introducing ESW into their postgraduate programs. However, as social workers in South Africa are already overwhelmed with challenges such as child abuse, domestic violence and poverty, ESW is not seen as a priority. This could be the reason for the limited literature available on the subject from a South African perspective.
  • Findings revealed that if social work is to include ESW in its training and practice, a paradigm shift must be made to focus on decolonization, Indigenous knowledge, and resilience. However, academics were of the view that a paradigm shift would pose specific challenges to the social work profession in South Africa.

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An interesting aspect that the results highlighted is that social workers already have certain skills and knowledge to implement ESW. Working in a rights-based profession, social workers are also experienced in advocacy and social justice practices and are therefore in an ideal position to advocate for environmental justice.

There should be greater awareness of climate change and its effects on communities and the environment, and of ESW and the responsibility of social work as a rights-based profession to address and mitigate the effects of climate change. If ESW is to be included in social work education, social work scholars should raise the profile of ESW by participating in workshops, conferences, symposia, and other discussion platforms.

Because of their principles, values, roles and skills, social workers are well placed to do their part in halting and managing the effects of climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity collapse. .

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However, social workers need to stop thinking that only humans are important and realize that the planet and all life on it are intimately connected.

The lady from Mzansi proudly celebrates her first day of work as an Environmental Health Safety Coordinator

In brief News previously reported that landing a new job in South Africa is definitely something to celebrate, especially with the country’s high unemployment rate.

A girl from Mzansi is so happy to have gotten a job that she shared her joy in a social media post.

Cleopatra Ndlovu posted a cute photo, noting that September 5 was her first day of work as Environmental Health Safety Coordinator.

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Source: News in Brief