Bracing themselves for the real world

31 March 2003

Taking the pledge: Social work student Samantha York with the Student Acknowledgement of Professional Conduct taken by her and her second-year peers in the Department of Social Development.

WITH THEIR first excursions into field practice coming up over the next few weeks, the current intake of 50 or so second-year social work students have groomed themselves for their upcoming encounters by formally pledging their compliance to the Department of Social Development's Student Acknowledgement of Professional Conduct.

The Acknowledgement has over the past years been a regular feature of the Department's preparation of second-year students about to go into fieldwork. The document, which students are required to endorse with their signatures, serves as an accompaniment to their mandatory registration with the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) as student social workers.

According to senior lecturer and field work co-ordinator Shona Sturgeon, the Acknowledgement aims to remind students of their professional obligations as social workers. “It's really to impress on them the ethical responsibility they have towards the people they are going to be working with,” she said.

The students' first taste of social work comes in the form of a non-interventive individual attachment programme next week, where, added Sturgeon, “they learn to listen and form a professional relationship with people”.

In the second semester, things get a little more demanding when they are assigned to a social work agency, while in their third-year they get involved in full-blown social work practice in a range of contexts.

Usually undertaken in the classroom, the Department took a more formal approach to proceedings this year by inviting students' friends and family to a pledging ceremony at UCT. Mara Koornhof, a member of the SACSSP, served as guest speaker at the event, which was presided over by HOD Associate Professor Lionel Louw and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Robin Cohen.

The gathering also allowed the Department to add some pomp to the presentation of its 2002 Class Medals, awarded to the top performers in each of the social work programmes. The recipients were: Filomena Francisco (SWK104S), Jonathan Hoffenberg (SWK260F), Angela Bennett (SWK261F), Ruth Lensen (SWK270F), Elysa Ferguson (SWK265S), Jolene Ridler (SWK275S), Eve Layton (who scooped the medals for SWK360F, SWK361F, SWK365S and SWK366S), Jennifer Holmes (SWK370F) and Sean Olivier (SWK375S).

Students in the Department of Social Development make up a very special group, observed Sturgeon. “They're not just students at a university; they're out there in the real world dealing with real issues.”

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