Social Work Staff and Students participate in Virtual German-South Africa Conference
Social Work lecturer, Dr Maud Mthembu is part of the Internationalisation for Building Competencies project (IFBC) which is a partnership between UKZN, Fachhochschule Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Germany and the University of Johannesburg.
The three-year project (2019-2021) is a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funded collaboration that aims to design, test, and implement new modules with theory-practise-reference and trans-disciplinary components which will be offered at the partner universities.
Due to COVID-19, students from Fachhochschule Dortmund University could not travel to South Africa. Instead, a virtual conference with a series of five webinars was convened to provide a national and international perspective of the pandemic in light of the Global Agenda of Social Work.
The programme comprised of five oral presentations in which working professionals in South Africa and Germany shared their expertise and knowledge. One theme was presented each day and thereafter, students were given the opportunity to deliberate on the theme.
The presenters included the Manager of the Employee Wellness Programme at the City of Johannesburg, Mr Leepile Thebe; Social Worker Manager at King Edward Hospital, Mr Bheki Zondi; lecturer in Social Work at UKZN, Dr Siphiwe Motloung; Ms Anna-Lena Roemer of the Catholic University of Applied Sciences of North Rhine – Westphalia; ZoeLife Development Manager, Mr Monty Thomas and Professor Ulrich Brand of the University of Vienna.
Student Ms Thenjiwe Mlotshwa said that the virtual conference offered insight into how the Global Agenda of Social Work remained active during the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Sharing national and international perspectives revealed that the pandemic has emphasised the need to strengthen the four pillars of the global agenda within our communities because these are the areas that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. While the effects of COVID-19 may be similar in Germany and South Africa, the extent of these effects varies because of resources and existing social issues in these countries.’
Student Mr Kwena Tlhaku noted that, ‘social workers have received no training in working with people in situations like these (pandemic and lockdown).’
Tlhaku also learned that social workers in Germany are faring far better during the pandemic and lockdown than those in South Africa due their levels of resources and support. ‘They reach out to a lot of people in need of their services through technological means. On every topic discussed, from the effects of inequality, to human rights issues and social cohesion, their progress during this time was excellent compared to that of South Africa. This shows that South Africa has a lot of work ahead, especially in the social services department.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo