On the need of institutional development of social work

Social Worker Md. Habibur Rahman, Associate Professor and Chairman, Department of Sociology and Social Work, People's University of Bangladesh (PUB), is Founding President of CSWPD (Community Social Work Practice and Development) Foundation. He has organized WSWD (World Social World Day) in four consecutive years in Bangladesh with study papers presented from universities and organizations across the world. Mr. Rahman is committed to building a sound, livable and sustainable community with assessment, exploration and understanding problems through strengths justification of every member of the society. Alamgir Khan, a columnist and writer who also edits Biggan O Sangskriti, a Bengali little mag on science and culture, had a discussion with him recently at his department of PUB in Dhaka on various aspects of and the need for uplifting social work in Bangladesh.

Q. You write Social Worker before your name. You have been working to make social work professional beyond current amateurish approach and make it state-recognized. Now, in our country, you see, school children write essays on their aims in life. Children have dreams to be doctors, engineers, even singers, actors, etc. But no one wants to be a social worker. Why?

MHR: Children dream to be those professional people who have financial security as well as social recognition. Parents also inspire them to be in those professions. But we have not been able to instill respect for social work in the hearts of our children. There is no model raised before their eyes. We need social workers as models for that to happen. Many children will start to dream to be social workers if they can see that the ultimate goal of education is to make good human beings and social work needs people with the best of humanistic qualities.

Q. Many people in our country are involved in various types of social works. And people of many professions do social works in their own ways. Again, social work has been present in our society since long in the past. Why then do you want to see it as a separate profession?

MHR: It's true that many people of various professions are in some forms of social work. But they do it as part of their other main activities. Social work itself is not their main agenda. But social work also should be a separate profession requiring full working time from the provider of the service. This is a practice in developed countries and social work is a profession similar to medical, engineering and others in those countries.

Q. What are the barriers to making social work professional in our country?

MHR: To be a profession it has to be academic first, with fifty percent theoretical and fifty percent practical knowledge. There has to be internship as there is in medical and other careers. Social workers have to earn income from their profession, which requires a legal basis and academic foundation. These conditions are lacking in our country. We need a national level association of social workers to make the profession fruitful as there is the British Association of Social Workers in Britain. Academic study of the subject has started here under Dhaka University since 1950s. And now it is being widely studied in other universities and colleges. A national association of social workers is required to be organized under government leadership. Besides, there are other gaps that have to be filled up.

Q. In your view, what steps are required to lift up social work to professionalism in our country?

MHR: Social work is a subject with a scientific basis of knowledge. Our social work is based on compassion and individual good intentions, not done following scientific methods. Those who are in social works such as NGOs in Bangladesh need to recruit more social work graduates. And other professionals who are not from academic background of social work may be provided with some training courses on the subject. Other organizations not directly connected with social work can also arrange some short courses for their employees as it will improve their overall performance for social good. Social work is connected with almost every professional field. There is a scope for social work in schools, hospitals, garments, etc., for example. Professional social workers could have played more effective roles if they had tackled the problems after tragic accidents in the garment industry as in the cases of Rana Plaza, Tazreen Fashion, etc.

Q. Many professions are under threat in the present global context. IT is also bringing many changes to many sectors. How social work fits in this constantly changing situation of globalization?

MHR: Globalization is also offering new problems and new dimensions of the existing problems before us. So social work will be needed more in this context. As you can see, social workers under the leadership of IFSW (International Federation of Social Workers) are now rendering valuable services in the war-ravaged Ukraine.

Q. What is the future of social work in our country?

MHR: Bangladesh is on the path of development. More people are becoming educated and more are appearing in the job market. There will be more competition in every sector. New types of socio-economic pressures will rise with everyday changes and advances. There will be diversification of problems and therefore more urgency and scope for people to pay attention to these. In developed countries, people are not hungry anymore, but facing other psychosocial ills. In the same way, personal and psychological problems will be on the rise here, too. So, the need for social work will be felt more than before, which will mainly be counseling type. Social workers will be needed by our side every day.

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