The Department of Social Work at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) collaborated with the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) in hosting robust engagements in an international virtual conference attended by representatives of over forty countries between 1 and 3 September.
“The theme of this conference was Pandemics, poverty and inequality: Taking Social Work into the 21st century. This is a much-debated topic that led to a lively conversation and it was built on previous discussions that we had in 2020- which we call the colloquiums. These colloquiums generated themes and sub-themes that have been included in this 2021 conference,” said Dr Valoshni Nadesan, the conference chair.
She stated that the theme and sub-themes were designed to provide delegates with opportunities to network and deliberate around issues pertinent to social work. The response was huge as there were over 200 abstracts received, Dr Nadesan shared.
A live streaming session was held, during which UNIZULU Vice-Chancellor Professor Xoliswa Mtose welcomed all the delegates and urged everyone to learn as much as they possible could from the discussions. “I am delighted to welcome and acknowledge the participation of many important leaders that are part of this programme, I specially wish to welcome our Honourable Minister of Social Development Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Professor Anna-Maria Campanini, the president of International Association of Schools of Social Work and Ms Lange Malamba the Registrar of South African Council of Social Service Professions. I also wish to welcome all speakers, presenters and registered participants. This conference comes at a very difficult time and challenging time in the history of the world. Spending a few days in this conference to share ideas about social work practice is both timeous and important,” she said.
Minister Zulu said that the gathering was of outmost importance as it brought together experts from both academia and the practice of the profession of social work to find lasting and practical solutions to socio economic challenges confronting the global community. “This is the time when we need to come closer to our communities to appreciate the work of social work and social work education and its profession. I hope that this collective expertise will provide thought leadership on matters relevant to social development. As a department, we support this conference and look forward to actionable outcomes that will further enhance the sector’s response to the pandemic,” said Minister Zulu.
She further challenged the attendees to deliberate over the areas to find the ways in which to work collectively to prevent such occurrences in the future. In closing, she expressed her deepest condolences to the families of social workers and social services professionals who succumbed to Covid-19.
According to Prof John Rautenbach, the head of the Department of Social Work at UNIZULU, the conference far exceeded his expectations as there were 2 036 registrations, 904 unique daily logins and seven concurrent parallel sessions as well as four workshops during the three-day conference.
- Precious Shamase