ANZASW acknowledges Youth Week

This week (09-17 May 2020) is New Zealand Youth Week, ANZASW would like to take the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge all social workers who work with our rangatahi here in Aotearoa and around the world. The theme for the week is “E kōrero ana mātou. E whakarongo ana koutou? |We’re speaking. Are you listening?”.

Last week I caught up with Nardine Schroder,  Social Worker & HOD of the Pastoral Care Team at Avonside Girls’ High School in Christchurch. Nardine and her team take a holistic wrap-around approach to their work to support the emotional, cultural, physical and academic well-being of their students. Their work involves collaborating with students, teachers, whānau and the wider community to overcome barriers and provide students with the best possible support.

During the COVID-19 lockdown/rāhui, Nardine explains that students have coped in a range of ways. While some are thriving with the increased flexibility and freedom that online learning provides, others are overwhelmed with the lack of structure, the need to self-motivate and not being able to have direct contact with teachers.  Others are missing the social interaction and connection that school provides. She explains that it is not just the individual student that influences their experience and ability to adapt to these new learning and living conditions. Other factors such as parental stress, financial hardship, changes in circumstance, device access as well as the fact that some students are still working their part-time jobs as essential workers can also impact on a student’s experience.

Senior students have additional worries surrounding NCEA, university entrance, scholarships, and the cancellation of school productions, school trips overseas and school formals, all fundamental elements to a student’s ‘normal’ final years at school.

Nardine and her team have been in contact with their students by video calls, phone calls, texts or emails. Nardine highlights however that although technology is great, it is not the same as being in the same space as someone.  There are important yet subtle cues that are harder to pick up.  There have also been regular emails to whānau and students keeping them up to date with the developments and reminding them of the services available within the school and wider community.

I asked Nardine what youth week and the theme “E kōrero ana mātou. E whakarongo ana koutou? means to her. She explained that youth week this year for her is about pausing, reflecting and listening to what our rangatahi have to say. That their insight, ability to self-reflect, challenge and problem-solve is so critical to Aotearoa’s future. Youth voice should not be an afterthought in policy development but instead should play an essential part in decision making. Nardine furthers adds, that it should be a week of celebration and appreciation of the energy, vitality and creativity that youth contribute to their communities, whānau and kura. Nardine ends by explaining that she feels that the future of Aotearoa is in safe hands with the insight, compassion and energy that she observes in her students.

This week, ANZASW would like to acknowledge and celebrate those social workers who work with our young people to ensure and support them in becoming the best versions of themselves.