Human rights have been a fundamental aspect of social work since its inception. However, little research has been done on the integration of human rights education into social work courses, especially in Africa. There is thus limited research evidence on pedagogic methods to teach human rights in social work schools in Africa.
The goal of this study was to explore the nature and extent of human rights in the curriculum and pedagogic methods that promote human rights education in schools of social work at universities in Southern and East Africa. A mixed methods research approach was used. Quantitative data were gathered using an online survey, and qualitative data were collected using semi-structured interviews and a document study. The questionnaire was completed by 28 schools of social work (14 in Southern Africa and 14 in East Africa). Qualitative data were collected from six schools of social work using semi-structured interviews and a document study of these schools’ curriculum. Two schools in Southern Africa and four in East Africa participated in the qualitative phase of the study.
The findings of the study indicate that countries’ socio-political contexts influence the freedom of higher education institutions to discuss human rights and speak out about human rights abuses, and subsequently their selected pedagogical practices. What universities believe should be included in the social work curriculum on human rights is incongruent with what is actually included. Moreover, educators’ personal viewpoints and experiences influence the human rights content that they include in the curriculum. Students are not involved in curriculum design, and analogue teaching is still more prevalent than digital teaching, which affects human rights’ educational delivery. The study concludes that human rights content must be infused into the social work curriculum, and that pedagogic methods must facilitate learning which enables students to practise human rights-based social work.
The researcher proposes an outline for designing a human rights-infused social work curriculum and pedagogical methods, and recommends that it be adapted by schools of social work in Africa to fit their particular context. It is recommended that social work educators be trained to deliver on the adapted proposal.