Violence, suicides prompt call for social workers in schools
  • | VNS | June 13, 2011 04:08 PM

The need for social workers to be a regular part of the educational system has gained urgency in Vietnam, given the increasing incidence of school violence, dropouts and suicides, experts say.

Staff from Viettel Software Centre providing advice for students at Ha Noi University of Science and Technology.

At a conference held by the Ho Chi Minh City Open University and UNICEF Vietnam on social work last weekend, participants talked about the Ministry of Education and Training\'s proposal for a USD3.3 billion plan that would comprehensively revamp the education curricula towards providing children with life-skills traditionally not taught in schools.

The most important step to teaching life-skills was the presence of qualified social workers in schools, experts said.

Social workers in schools would provide a valuable service in counselling high school students and helping them deal with daily life problems, but policy makers have not paid attention to this aspect, the conference heard.

The task of social workers cannot be undertaken by teachers who are already overloaded with regular academic work, said Thach Ngoc Yen of Ho Chi Minh City\'s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Yen said a child spent most of his/her time at school and the educational system was typically blamed when he or she became delinquent.

About 10 years ago, with support from Save the Children Sweden, social workers were appointed in two senior secondary schools in Ho Chi Minh City as a pilot project, with the hope it could be expanded to others schools.

The social workers helped students with psychological issues including problems they had with teachers, parents and other people.

Later, similar projects were implemented in eight more schools in the city\'s Districts 3, 8, 10, Tan Binh and Go Vap, as well as the Phan Thanh Gian High School in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre.

Le Chi An, head of Ho Chi Minh City Open University\'s Social Work faculty, said many schools in Ho Chi Minh City have currently adopted counselling as a support to reduce school violence and deal with psychological issues faced by their students.

However, An said, most of these projects have been short-term, pilot projects. The work done by social workers should go beyond providing counselling to addressing other problems they face on a regular basis, he said.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, among 5,000 social workers in the city, around 1,000 work in the education and healthcare sectors.

The country has around 34 universities training social workers. However, in order to help the social workers do their tasks professionally and effectively, they should be made part of school\'s staff, experts reiterated at the conference.

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