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Reaching, Touching, Changing Lives.

School Social Worker Professional Develoment

Our School Social Worker Professional Development project seeks to benefit children through the increased capacity and expertise of social workers in the education setting.  Most Mongolian schools have social workers but they are currently significantly under-qualified and under-skilled.  The majority of their working time is diverted away from the children under their care and into administrative duties.  This professional development project helps school social workers to up-skill in order to have a more beneficial impact on the lives of the children they are responsible for; as well as educating school workers, parents, teachers, and the children themselves as to the role and responsibilities of a school social worker.


School Social Work in Mongolia

The profession of social work did not exist in Mongolia prior to 1997, when it was introduced by Save the Children UK as a way of addressing some of Mongolia’s burgeoning social problems resulting from the collapse of the Socialist system in 1990.

During the Communist era there was no formal social work profession, but the tasks usually encompassed by modern social workers were carried out in large by political officers responsible for supervising social, community and even family life.

The collapse of the communist system brought a plethora of economic and social problems previously almost unknown: unemployment, alcoholism, domestic violence, prostitution, truancy, street children, illiteracy, and soaring crime rates.  Blue collar workers suffered the highest job losses, resulting in widespread unemployment among men and consequent family breakdown.  School drop-out rates soared as the government removed subsidies on boarding school facilities for children of nomadic herders.  Rural-urban migration saw many thousands of children lose access to schooling through failure to gain registration in urban areas and consequent access to services.


Introduction of Social Work to Mongolia

Into this setting, Save the Children UK and the Mongolian Child Rights Centre introduced the concept of Social Work in 1997.  The Mongolian government began to see the crucial need for social workers in child protection, advocacy and in encouraging children’s participation in the development process.  By 2001 a job description for school social workers had been adopted and every school in the nation had a designated school social worker. 


Qualifications and Training

However, in the initial scramble to appoint school social workers, and in the absence of accredited social work training facilities, almost none of the social workers appointed were qualified in the field.  In the 15 years since that time, social work training programmes have been established, but a dearth of qualified and competent workers still exists.  Nationwide approximately 40% of school social workers hold no formal qualification in their field, and graduates of training programmes are underqualified and underskilled. 


Professional Development and Job Supervision

The school social worker is appointed by the School Director rather than the Ministry of Education, and while it is required that a candidate be qualified, the Ministry of Education policy allows social workers to train while they concurrently work.  However, supervision of the social worker’s job performance and professional development is left in the hands of the School Director.  Although the Ministry of Education has produced a job description for school social workers, in practice the school director allocates the school social worker’s duties, which may include organising cultural and social activities, work with talented children, follow-up on truantism, and administrative tasks.


Genesis-AOM’s Introduction to the Field of School Social Work

During more than ten years in the early 2000’s, Genesis-AOM addressed the growing problem of school truancy by running Non-Formal Education Classes in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, municipal authorities and other NGOs such as World Vision.  More than 5,000 children completed a one to two year intensive education programme and were able to either enter school at their correct grade level, or sit their school leaver exams and graduate from high school. 

     During these 10 years of involvement in the Mongolian education system, we observed many incidents of child abuse/neglect, and the maltreatment and discrimination suffered by children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  We came to appreciate the unique role of school social workers in the lives of the children under their care, and the opportunity school social workers have to bring positive change to children and families.  Social workers we spoke to were devoted and hard working, but struggled with case loads of up to 3,000 children and the diverting of their time and energies into tasks outside their job description.   School social workers were very aware that they lacked key skills needed to carry out their job conscientiously. They also felt that they lacked opportunities for professional and personal development that would enable them to engage more effectively the children and families under their care and address key issues relevant to the school setting, such as bullying, video game addiction, and substance abuse.

     We believe that school and community social workers occupy a key position in society where they can interact with children and families and bring about positive change.  We see that the next step in transforming the lives of Mongolian children and bringing about societal change lies in supporting and training social workers, giving them the skills and competencies they need to address social issues and effect change.


Project Overview

The three day professional development course for school social workers covers 12 topics relevant to the school setting and is worth 24 credits (See Appendix A for a list of topic headings).  It is intended to develop skills in administration and reporting, as well as much needed skills in relating to children, working with children in specific situations, and liaising with other child advocates, such as NGO’s, or professionals such as teachers and school staff.


The training is facilitated in conjunction with the Municipal Education Department and will take place in three-day blocks, to be conducted during the school term or in the school holidays.  In the early months, the training will be held in the different areas of Ulaanbaatar city, and thereafter will be taken to the provinces.  The topics covered are all included in the School Social Worker Handbook, which will be provided as a part of the course. 


A teaching team of qualified Social Work professors from within Mongolia has been established.  However, international experts will also be contracted to teach aspects of the course in order to bring the greater depth of knowledge and wider skill base of more experienced nations to the programme. 


A number of expatriate social workers are already working in Mongolia.  A network of social workers has been established whereby NGO's working in the social work sphere can draw on the knowledge and resources of the network to strengthen their projects.


In order to keep abreast of current best practices in the field, project staff subscribe to relevant magazines, journals and periodicals, and undertake training and up-skilling opportunities where possible.