Social work as a career option

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With the demand for qualified social workers increasing and more youngsters looking at making a difference in society, NT KURIOCITY visits Don Bosco College, the only college in the state that offers a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work; to learn more about this profession

MARIA FERNANDES | NT KURIOCITY

Most people assume that social work involves working for an NGO part time and is a job for those who have a philanthropic streak. There is more however to this profession than just that! Social Work is an academic discipline of Humanities and Social Sciences and its primary mission is to enhance well-being of humankind and help meet basic and complex needs of people, especially the vulnerable, poor and the oppressed.

Social workers are agents of change in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. The skills, techniques and activities utilised in social work are varied as the focus is on people and their environment.

What do social workers do?

The professional social workers favour the term ‘to help people to help themselves’, says ex-HOD, department of social work, Don Bosco College, Panaji, Maya Chodankar. Don Bosco College is the only college in the state to offer a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work. “Working with the poor is one of its marginalised areas of practice. As a practice based profession, social work encourages the individual’s personal and social well being and works towards bringing about a social change,” she says. All social workers deliver specialised care, helping individual patients address a particular challenge or obstacle in their lives, adds assistant professor at the college, Pankaj Kumbhar. “It is not just the sick whom they serve but the disadvantaged as well. Some offer counseling services through their own private practices,” he says.

From person-focused processes, says assistant professor at Don Bosco College, Alisha Dias, to involvement in social policy, planning and development, the range of areas where social workers come into play is vast. Some of these areas include government welfare agencies, non-governmental organisations, charity/non-profit organisations, etcetera. “The focus of social work is holistic and universal, but there are variations in priorities of social work practice. These vary from country to country and from time to time depending on cultural, historical and socio-economic conditions,” she adds.

What are the skills required?

Working with people especially those who are vulnerable requires special qualities, states counsellor, Aprajita Mandrekar who is also an ex-student of Don Bosco College. “As a social worker you need to have people skills and need to be driven by idealism. Without a keen sense of service to society, a social worker cannot function,” she says. Empathy and sensitivity too, she adds, are required in great measure, not just for the clients but also for team members, as this ensures that working relationships remain strong.

Patience is also a quality which goes a long way in this profession. “Having patience with people going through difficult times allows social workers to understand their whole story,” says Dias, and lists communication skills with emphasis on good listening skills, as a major factor in the smooth functioning of a social worker’s crucial role.

What does the course entail?

Through the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree course at the college, students are able to work with diverse individuals, families, and communities. “The curriculum focuses on training individuals to develop an in-depth understanding of diverse views ; empowers them to expand their capacities based on resources and opportunities and advocate for policies and services that address social conditions that limit the quality of life for all people,” says HOD, department of social work, Pratibha Majik . She stresses on the practical hands-on experience that students have along with the theoretical knowledge they gain. “The knowledge and skill base of the students is supplemented by supportive field instructions given by academicians and field practitioners throughout the year,” she says.

In all semesters there is fieldwork for 15 hours per week which provides students the opportunity to learn, understand, integrate and apply the different facets of social work practice. Students are placed across a diverse range of governmental organisations or NGOs and other settings spread across Goa like Child line, VHAG, Stepping Stones, Apna Ghar, HelpAge India, special schools like Disha, etcetera.

“We had a compulsory 10 days rural camp as part of the curriculum, where we lived in a rural village, Ibrampur in Pernem. It was a unique experience as we got to interact with the villagers and understand their problems by conducting surveys, mapping and various sessions. We also had various fun activities like street plays, competitions, etc, for children, women and farmers,” shares Adriel Sena, a second year BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) student.

Casework, group work, community organisation, social welfare administration, social work research and social action, social movements, networking and advocacy are the core subjects of the three-year bachelor’s and two-year master’s course. Besides these, communicative English; environment education; social policy and development; health education; life skill education; counselling, etcetera are also included. In semesters five and six, students have to compulsorily work towards writing project reports.

Besides the Don Bosco College in the state, other colleges in the country offering this course include – Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; Delhi University; Loyola College of Social Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram; Christ University, Bengaluru; besides others.

The eligibility criterion for enrollment is a passing grade at the higher secondary school examination for the BA in Social Work. For the Master’s programme, candidates have to complete their graduation in any stream but with a minimum of 50 per cent marks. They also have to pass the Admission Ranking Test (ART) organised by the Goa University.

What are the career prospects?

As a social worker you can work in different areas like hospitals, clinics, education sector, health centres, shelter/care homes, NGOs, human rights agencies, old age homes, disaster management departments, rehabilitation centres, correctional institutions, community development programmes, educational institutions, organisations working for mental health, and many more. “Today corporates too employ social work graduates for their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) department,” says Majik. Starting salaries in the country range anywhere from `15,000 to `30,000. “Getting a job depends on the individual’s dedication, focus and skills. It is definitely hard work but the satisfaction is much more,” says ex-student of Don Bosco College, Pranjali Desai who currently works at SCAN, Goa.