I REMEMBERED the shock on the faces of some friends and family when they found out that I was enrolled to pursue Social Work at the University of Guyana. Apparently, there was and still is a stigma attached to the profession. It is “common knowledge” that social work is a major for people without many passed subjects at CSEC, it was a profession for the “lazy” and the “dunce” and it was a major that was “easy” to pass at the university.
Apparently, also, these were meant to be insults at social workers and/or to degrade the profession as a whole. For whatever reason, these comments were thrown at me to deter me from entering into the profession because I am somehow “too smart” to pursue it—or whatever that means.
I can say with certainty that none of this is true. Social Work is the profession that helps to enhance the overall well-being and welfare of people on the micro, mezzo and macro levels of society. In Guyana, we are taught the generalist practice which means that it is a generic practice that incorporates different levels of society. Social workers in Guyana would fill the role of many titles; they are our Probation Officers, Child Protection Officers, Counsellors, Schools’ Welfare Officers, Policy Advisers and even Social Activists. Can you imagine a Guyana without these professionals? Who will fight against social injustice for the underprivileged? How can we make sense of the social world and its ills without social workers?
Tuesday, March 16 was celebrated as World Social Workers Day. This day was commemorated under the theme, Ubuntu: Strengthening Social Solidarity and Global Connectedness Commentary. Apart from a few social media posts and articles; nothing else was done to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of social workers in Guyana.
Why is that so? I believe that this will lead us back to the social disparagement towards the entire profession in our country. I cannot say why social workers are frowned upon by many in society. Maybe, it is the stigma of mental health or the inability to consciously believe that there are ills in the social world—whatever it is, we ought to do better. Social workers work tirelessly every day to ensure that Guyana promotes equality, social justice, social welfare and inclusive policies and legislation.
They deserve credit for their overall contributions towards making Guyana a developed state. They do this and so much more, all while being underpaid and overworked with enormous workloads, but that’s a story for another day. The next time you or someone you know disregard or even disrespect a social work professional, I hope you remember the message behind this article. During these challenging times, social workers are needed more than ever as social ills increase through to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social Work is a disciple of the social sciences and unlike other sciences, it is the art of listening and the science of hope. We, as Guyanese, ought to learn to appreciate that a bit more before it’s too late.