During the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector had to tackle unprecedented challenges and hurdles. Nonetheless, it overcame the adversities through shifts in educational strategies, online modes of deliverance, and whatnot. Amidst this, social workers played an indispensable role in ensuring the sector’s integrity.
One of the critical functions that social workers perform is catering to the education sector. Social programs aimed at children and adolescents are primarily routed through schools and colleges. Children and adolescents are often classified as vulnerable populations by global bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross. This article will go through six ways social workers serve the education sector.
Integrating Life-skills Based Education
Life-skills Based Education (LSBE) is a curriculum recommended by the WHO to be taught in schools. This curriculum aims to improve children’s social skills and prevent child abuse. These programs enable children to avoid hurdles in life and advance their social skills. Social workers develop the curriculum for different contexts and then train the teachers. What’s more, teachers and schools also benefit from this as parents appreciate schools with LSBE curricula.
Children taking part in LSBE programs also report having higher self-esteem and improved social skills. These programs are also gendered in nature and utilize female social workers specifically. These female social workers implement programs with young girls on health and hygiene. Since these social issues are often not covered within educational curriculums, social workers greatly help the academic sector by bridging this gap. For this specific reason, social workers expand their knowledge base to remain abreast of changing education trends and practices. Most of them pursue the masters of social work online degree programs to acquire the skills and knowledge crucial to executing such strategies and tackling emerging academic issues.
Mental Health Programs
Today, many social workers visit schools and arrange mental health programs for children to raise awareness about mental health issues. These include awareness of depression and bullying and offer mental health counseling to children to help them understand their problems. These programs also improve teachers’ ability to identify children going through mental health concerns and convey the issues to their parents for discussion. It allows parents and teachers to reach out to the child and help resolve the problem early.
Such programs and sessions also give children an opportunity to share any harassment, abuse, or neglect incidents and get support and help. Social workers are trained in dealing with and managing these sensitive issues. And children primarily trust them due to their external positioning.
Healthcare Awareness Programs
Social workers associated with healthcare programs often visit schools and conduct seminars and awareness sessions. The focus of these sessions is often common healthcare issues such as COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and Substance Abuse. These programs inform children and teachers about symptoms and markers of these issues, so children know how to prevent themselves from getting any of these issues.
Social workers also address myths and misconceptions and give children and teachers accurate knowledge of various health issues. They also reach out to parents through the schools, share pamphlets containing information on the subjects, and conduct small sessions to answer their queries.
Supporting Children with Special Needs
Not all schools are equipped with teachers to cater to children with physical or mental disabilities. Therefore, it often falls under the jurisdiction of social workers to either teach children with special needs or facilitate teachers and schools in doing so. The specialized nature of these children’s education is often part of social workers’ training. Social workers have a rights-based approach; hence they promote children with special needs right to education. They develop sign language and Braille curriculums and then train teachers on these curricula to teach children with disabilities.
Another way social workers support children with special needs is by introducing immersive learning techniques to schools. Social workers working with research institutes test Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) programs with children with special needs. These immersive learning programs cater to the children’s unique needs and create an interactive learning environment free from real-world distractions.
Integrating Sexual and Reproductive Health Curriculum
Social workers also cater to another niche area of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). This topic is often amiss from college medical and nursing curriculums. Social workers integrate this curriculum to ensure that future doctors and nurses receive appropriate knowledge on SRHR and have a positive attitude towards such matters. Social workers achieve this by lobbying governments and school management to integrate the SRHR curriculum. They also train teachers on the curriculum as well as existing healthcare providers. Likewise, they even conduct seminars with students to address their queries.
Social workers often work in Value Clarification and Attitude Transformation (VCAT) workshops to improve the school management and teachers’ knowledge and attitude towards SRHR. These workshops also debunk the participants’ myths around SRHR. Considering the global issues with population and maternal mortality, this is a critical function that social workers perform through the education sector.
Research and Development
Many new educational techniques, such as LSBE, immersive education, and participatory education, require research to assess this efficacy. Schools often don’t have the time and resources to research before implementing such strategies. For this particular reason, social workers play a handy role by designing research studies around implementing these programs to collect data on their effectiveness.
These studies are integral to developing and growing educational methodologies and ascertaining which methods work better and how they can align to meet the needs of a particular population. Evidence has shown that schools that base their programs on research are likely to yield more positive outcomes amongst the children.
Social workers play a vital role in expanding the education sector’s scope to address a wide array of social issues. They build the capacities of school management, teachers, and children on mental health, contagious health problems, and substance abuse issues. They also support schools in integrating life-skills-based education and health rights curricula. Moreover, they play a critical role in promoting children’s rights with special needs by developing resources and supporting schools in implementing essential strategies.