“Where are the Social Workers considering the challenges persons with disabilities face accessing healthcare services, education and the basic rights of life?”
This was the question raised at the 2021 International Human Rights Day discourse organized by Nigeria Association of Social Workers, Lagos State around the theme: Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights.
This webinar underscored the need for Social Workers to be trained in the understanding of disabilities.
Prof Chinwe Nwanna, Head of Department of Social Work, University of Lagos, Nigeria explained that the absence of the study of disabilities in the curriculum in tertiary institutions could be a major contributory factor to the lapses observed.
Centre for Studies, through the Access Bank Plc sponsored Capacity Building programme for Social Workers in Nigeria, set out in October 2022 to fill this knowledge gap and equip the Social Workers to understand disabilities.
The programme was designed to raise awareness and understanding of disabilities among Social Workers and equip them with knowledge and tools to add value to the lives of persons with disabilities through knowledge sharing and community sensitization and to reduce discrimination and stigmatisation against persons with disabilities in the pursuit of their rights.
The hybrid training programme in collaboration with Nigeria Association of Social Workers, Lagos State held at the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Conference and Exhibition Hall and had in attendance over 120 Social Workers from 15 States: Lagos, Kwara, Plateau, Kebbi, Kano, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa, Oyo, Ogun, Rivers and Ekiti; and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja).
Highlights of the programme included the unveiling and public presentation of the training handbook for the Capacity building programme for Social Workers on the understanding of disabilities by the representative of Access Bank Plc; the Nigeria Association of Social Workers (NASoW) National President, Alhaji Mashood Mustapha; Dr Dada Shonibare, a retired Director of Research & Head of South-west Zone, Nigerian Educational Research & Development Council (NERDC); Mrs Olanike Akinbola of the National Commission for Persons with disabilities (NCPWD); Prof Chinwe Nwanna, Head of Department of Social Work, University of Lagos and Mr Joseph Nte Bisong of the National Universities Commission (NUC); and the sharing of life stories by disability management and rights advocates: Barr. Daniel Onwe, legal practitioner, Ms. Tobiloba Ajayi, mainstreaming education for kids with Cerebral Palsy, Mrs. Abigail Olowoshoke, visionary leader and Resource Person for the blind students in Queen’s College, Lagos State, Mr. Daniel Isaiah, Assistive technology trainer and ICT Resource Person for the blind and Ms. Olufunke Ogunrombi, Disability Rights Advocate and Go-Folic Ambassador.
The President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Mr Joachim Mumba who wrote the foreword of the training handbook also joined the programme virtually to address the gaps in service delivery of the Social Workers and encourage them to drink from the well of knowledge from the resource persons and leaders in the disability clusters so they would be equipped for their practicum to students in public secondary schools in Nigeria.
Students in 34 public secondary schools in Lagos, Kwara, Plateau, Kebbi, Kano, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa, Oyo, Ogun, Rivers and Ekiti; and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) were trained between November and December 2022 to encourage young people to consider Social Work as a course of study; equip them with the knowledge of disabilities, to lay a foundation for a systemic overhaul in the perceptions of persons with disabilities and encourage the breaking down of barriers of discrimination and stigmatization against them and ultimately, encourage young people to become Advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities.
The overarching goal of the programme is for a curriculum review of Social Work studies in tertiary institutions for the inclusion of the study and understanding of disabilities via a submission to the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Centre for Youth Studies is currently engaging with the stakeholders for the realization of this goal.
When carers and “first responders” are equipped with the knowledge and tools for better social service delivery, we would have a world where truly, no one is left behind.