A zoom conversation on 2 May 2020 involving the Presidents of IASSW and ASSWA and the international representative from ASASWEI (the hosting organization), spontaneously drew a crowd of over a hundred, mostly social work educators, researchers and even students. This was one of various seminars across different online platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic that provided an opportunity for Social Work academics to engage thoughtfully around common social challenges.    

Disruptions like this pandemic shakes the foundations of society the way we know it but also create opportunities for deep social, financial and political transformation. We have the opportunity to reflect deeply on our discipline and on how we respond to the material and psychosocial needs of those vulnerable groups impacted by the pandemic. We also have the opportunity to speak to the need for governments to address the extreme inequalities intensified by disasters, and while doing this, create teachable moments for social work students. How we seize the opportunity for a global voice can influence how we are recognised for our contributions during different forms of disasters.  The opportunity for global research collaborations are often created when academics and researchers connect. Some of the collaborative opportunities that emerged through the discussions of 2 May were;

  • social work and disaster management, 
  • exploring the politics of disasters;
  • the impact of economic policies of austerity on the discipline, 
  • mental health, gender-based violence and attachment during pandemics

ASASWEI who served as the host of the above event had a range of Zoom sessions during the lockdown period that provided an opportunity for social work academics locally and abroad to engage with each other. These are;

  1. Disaster management – Prof S Ferreira (UFS)
  2. Disaster resilience – Prof R Ferreira (USA)
  3. Debriefing- Dr M Herselman (UFH)
  4. Trauma counselling – Prof A Herbst (NWU)
  5. Wits Trauma Model – Prof G Eagle
  6. Psycho-social responses to Covid – Prof AG Xavier (Loyola College, Chennai)
  7. Self Care during Covid (Exercise, Meditation and Yoga) – S Naidu
  8. Self-Care and Mental Health – T Sayed (NWU)
  9. Panel discussion -Responding to Covid 19: Are we African universities or Universities in Africa?- Mr A Nkqubela, Mr V Diko and Dr N Perumal (NMU) 
  10. Academic responses to Covid-19 (ASASWEI, ASSWA and IASSW)
  11. Emergency Remote Learning in Social Work Education during COVID-19 Pandemic: Dr. P. Khosa, Dr. Z. Zimba and Dr. R. Pillay

As we all adapt to the new normal and work with the academic challenges that the pandemic created, our ability to connect and engage thoughtfully on the online platform will continue to draw our world together.

Anneline Keet (PhD) is a social work educator at Nelson Mandela University in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. She is also the international representative of ASASWEI on the board of IASSW.