Message from the President: Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) 

Dear ASASWEI Members 

Chair PhotoA warm welcome to all Heads of Departments (HODs), academic staff, newly appointed academic staff, and support staff in general. The 2023 academic year started with a loud bang that blinded me to an extent that I lost track of time. I bet I am not alone. 2023 like each new year, offers us the opportunity to reflect on the past year whilst it also presents us with new opportunities and accompanying challenges. I bet by this time of the year the majority have already used the past few weeks to take stock and reflect on their performance in the previous year and/or celebrate their achievements whilst also learning from their mistakes and/or failures, especially to meeting their set goals.  

Looking back, the year 2022 was a year worth celebrating. As the incumbent EXCO, we successfully steered the ASASWEI ship in the right direction. We strengthened our relations with our key stakeholders and brought on board new networks in the name of the European Association of Social Work Research. We supported events linked with International Social Work Day.  In addition, we successfully presented an engaging and context relevant Colloquium in partnership with UKZN colleagues.

As wisdom dictates, our first step as EXCO was to acknowledge that the first step in getting somewhere was to decide that we are not going to stay where ASASWEI was when we were nominated in 2021.  As such, we went on to introduce the following “projects”: 
•    Special Interest Groups (SIG) in Social Work Research. 
•    Social Work Journal Club 
•    Best Student Achievement Award.

I note with frustration and powerlessness the unabating rolling blackout, the declining economy and high inflation.  This is not a good start of the year as many individuals and families from disadvantaged background suffer the most. Let us pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, hands on deck, as we launch the academic year in pursuit of the academic project, which we believe will contribute to the training and development of human rights soldiers and advocates for justice. As we grapple with the power crisis, like true social workers, we need to see the opportunities amongst the mayhem. Perhaps this power crisis presents us with the opportunity to be creative in using our good planning skills. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (Literally, I mean), if we all encourage our students to plan their time accordingly, whilst at the same time, they use their vote correctly.

More importantly, we have just experienced the explosive ChatGPT platform which has created so much interest around the world. Our students are probably on it already and are seeing many opportunities while we may be seeing danger. I also hope that like true social workers, we should embrace the new opportunities, albeit the challenges this new Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot presents. I do acknowledge that the increasing use of AI in education and training does come with unintended consequences. I trust we are all gearing ourselves up to deal with these, ensuring that our students are using these resources professionally, responsibly, and ethically. I believe we are all hard at work trying to find ways of accommodating ChatGPT in our assessment strategies.

It is a new year. Despite all the negativity, let us welcome 2023 with vigor, enthusiasm and commitment. We are indebted to our youth - potential social work academics, researchers, practitioners and leaders in general. We owe it to them to provide them with a transformative learning experience. In addition, we are indebted to society.  We owe it to South Africa and the African Continent, to train  our students to become change makers.

As EXCO, we welcome the new year with ambitious plans to host a hybrid International Social Work Conference in partnership with our key stakeholders during the month of September 2023. Watch the space for a formal and official announcement, with a call for submission of abstracts in due course.

We also welcome the new year with plans to present at least three (3) SIG Seminars/Webinars under the leadership of Prof Wim Roestenburg. Watch the space for the formal announcement.

We welcome the new year again with plans to officially launch the Journal Club under the leadership of Dr Busisiwe Nkala-Dlamini and team. Watch the space for a formal invitation to join empowerment club.

Finally, we welcome the new year with the launch of the Best Student Achievement Award under the leadership of Dr Mpumelelo Ncube and team. Watch the space for a call to appeal for your support in joining the task team to put together Terms of Reference/ Term and Conditions.

For us as EXCO, 2023 seems to be a year that will be full of new and exciting activities that are geared towards enhancing and strengthening the comradeship amongst key stakeholders in the sector, academics, researchers, practitioners, students and service users.  Guided by one famous writer I say: “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written”.  Let us join hands and work together as we always do. Let us continue to contribute new social work knowledge, build change makers, and advocate on behalf of our students and unemployed graduates. Let us continue to increase our networks across the globe, amplify our voice, and leave our footprints.

Allow me to end by thanking everyone who is a member of ASASWEI and has contributed to a successful 2022 year plan. Especially, I would like to thank my peers – the EXCO members Prof Wim Roestenburg, Prof Anneline Keet, Prof Mbazima Mathebane and Prof Nontembeko Bila. We are an amazing team. Your commitment is incredible and unparalleled.  

Poppy Masinga