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Social Work academics win top ASASWEI awards
Author: Lynne Rippenaar-Moses
Published: 09/12/2019

​Two academics from the Social Work Department walked away with top honours at the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) award ceremony held in Cape Town recently. Prof Lambert Engelbrecht, Chair of the Social Work Department, and Ms Priscalia Khosa, a junior lecturer in the same department, respectively won the Researcher of the Year and Emerging Academic of the Year awards.  

Nominations were received from across South Africa and were evaluated by local assessors as well as those from the Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa (ASSWA), Canada, India, Italy, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States. 

Khosa, who was nominated for the Emerging Academic of the Year, was described in the nomination as a young academic who is diligent, productive and consistent in her scholarly academic outputs" and has the “potential to soon develop into an established social work academic". 

“Her growing research trajectory is consistent and commendable. Although she is a junior lecturer, her general performance in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, and recognition on both institutional and national level is exceeding her post level," said Engelbrecht. 

Khosa was appointed to the Social Work Department in 2017 and is currently completing a PhD in the department, with Engelbrecht as her supervisor. Her research focuses on the supervision of social workers, specifically on policies on supervision. Due to the international relevance of her research, she has been invited to contribute a book chapter on her topic for the forthcoming Routledge International Handbook on Social Work Supervision which will be published next year. ​

She has already made a huge contribution to curriculum development and the advancement of social work education through various academic articles and conference papers she has presented. This includes an article titled Inducting first year social work students: Reflections on a discipline-specific approach to academic development as well as a paper she co-authored about a decolonising project of the Social Work Department at SU called Authentication of an academic culture in a Social Work programme offered at a South African university: A value-driven approach towards a decolonised curriculum.

“Pursuing an academic career was always something I wanted to do," said Khosa when asked about how she entered academia as a social worker. 

“While I was working, I enrolled for an MA degree part-time at Wits University and when I got my degree, I accepted a contract position at Wits. I took that risk with the hope that eventually a door will open for me in academia. I also knew working at Wits would help me get my foot in the door. I eventually got a three-year contract."

While she has concentrated on research on substance abuse and social work education in the past, her current research looks at social work supervision. 

“I was not expecting this, but I was hopeful," said Khosa. “I really did not realise how big this was until I was at the event. When they read my CV, mentioning everything I've done, I was like that person is me. It was overwhelming and I am just wowed."

“This has shown me that anything can be done. Obviously it is not easy, because as a young academic you are still finding your feet and also juggling other responsibilities as a woman for that matter. It doesn't mean you can't do it, you just have to put in the extra hours, which is what I am doing. So I want to encourage other early career academics that it can be done."

Engelbrecht is an Associate Professor in the Social Work Department and is highly regarded both locally and internationally for his research on the effects of neo-liberalism on social work service delivery. Over the years he has made a significant contribution to the social work profession while  focused on the supervision and management of social workers and students for many years. Subsequently, he has published widely on topics related to management, supervision and social development. He also has extensive experience in front-line social work, having worked as both a manager and supervisor in the industry. 

At present he hasmore than 100 accredited research outputs to his credit and serves on various academic journals as editorial or advisory committee member. In 2016 he received the National Association of Social Workers' (WC) award for excellence in research. The South African Academy for Sciences and Arts awarded him the Stals prize in 2017 for his internationally acclaimed publications, contributing to sciences in South Africa. In 2018 he was rated as an internationally acclaimed researcher by the National Research Foundation (NRF), which is the highest research rating ever for a full-time social work academic in the South Africa. 

In 2019 alone, he has published six articles in high profile international journals, has edited two books (Management and Supervision of Social Workers: Issues and Challenges within a Social Development Paradigm,and Contemporary Practices in Social Work Supervision: Time for New Paradigms?), produced seven book chapters, participated in eight conference proceedings, is supervising six PhD and six MA students, and has delivered three international keynote lectures, while teaching four courses in thes Department. He is also actively involved in Faculty committees and student community activities, such as being appointed in 2019 as the Academic Principal of the Wimbledon Cluster at Stellenbosch University.

Reflecting on the recognition, Engelbrecht said: “I acknowledge with gratitude all the social work academics, practitioners, students and service users in South Africa and beyond who have, and are still working with me, to promote social work as an academic and practice-based profession in South Africa,  Africa and the rest of the world. My achievements are not mine: I owe it to all those people who participate in my research, who support me, and from whom I could learn".

Photo: Prof Lambert Engelbrecht, Chair of the Social Work Department (second from right), and Ms Priscalia Khosa (left), a junior lecturer in the same department, were respectively awarded the Researcher of the Year and Emerging Academic of the Year awards by the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI). They received the awards from the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu (second from left) and the President of the Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa (ASSWA), Prof Gidraph  Wairire, from the University of Nairobi, Kenya (right).