Exploring The Pathways Of Social Work With Dr. Joseph Riamei - Eastern Mirror
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Exploring the pathways of social work with Dr. Joseph Riamei

By Moakala T Aier Updated: Jun 12, 2024 12:38 am
Dr. Joseph Riamei 1
Joseph Riamei

DIMAPUR — With over a decade-long academic career focused on Conflict and Peace, Tribes and Governance, Community Organisation and Development Practice, Issues of Identity and Livelihood, and more, Dr. Joseph Riamei, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati Campus, has actively collaborated with students, development professionals, and non-profit organisations nationwide and internationally. 

Riamei has published books on ‘Voluntarism in Tribal Society’ and ‘Asymmetrical Federalism in North-East India’. His work extends to numerous peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, in addition to authoring reports and leading research projects for government agencies and non-profit organisations. Social Work Education and Practice, Federalism, Ethnicity and Conflict Studies; State, Democracy and Tribes, are some of his research interests.

In an interview with Eastern Mirror, Riamei who is also the Chairperson, Centre for Community Organisation and Development Practice (CODP), shares about the field of social work as a study and beyond.

For students considering social work as a career path, what key skills and qualities do you believe are essential for success in this field?

In social work courses, we look for students who will be dedicated and committed to work in the community, with the people – this commitment and dedication is the most essential part of it. They need to be sensitive towards certain issues in the society such as HIV/AIDS, maybe certain health issues, in the larger context, we can talk about certain marginalised communities, migrants, minority groups, etc., and probably diversity of the people especially from the pro-poor perspective.

What are some sought-after specialisations within the field of social work study?

In TISS, based on my experience in the institute, the centre that I am chairing right now, that is Centre for Community Organisation and Development Practice (CODP) – this centre is where most of the students apply for their studies.

Most students apply here probably because the subject per se, that is, community organisation is one of the courses that are known or more dominant in the context of social work. If we look at the history of social work, the CODP is one of the dominant subjects or specialisations. I think for this reason alone, many want to opt for this.

In CODP, there is a blend of many focuses like – livelihood, health issues, and conflict studies. Another reason is because students want to have such kinds of diverse exposure in their courses. 

Field visit to a group of students placed for rural practicum in Ri Bhoi district Meghalaya 2

How can students determine which specialisation aligns best with their interests?

This is what I have been telling students that if they want to pursue bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) – where there is specialisation or centre, they need to read the course content properly which is given on the prospectus or website of a particular institute or university. They need to see the course objective, the rationale of the course and the courses offered in that particular specialisation and then they need to choose accordingly what will be the most suitable or most interesting. Students must do this type of background study before they enroll themselves in any of the specialisations.

On the other hand, a student might know someone who studied social work in their peer group, friend circle or a family member, etc. Maybe students can discuss with them also to determine which specialisation aligns best with their interests. And one can always look up on the internet as everyone has access to it; one can easily study about the social work courses. 

How can students prepare for the challenges of social work, particularly in fieldwork situations?

Fieldwork in social work education is the core component of the course, it is compulsory. For each semester, which is in six months, one will be spent in fieldwork. That means, students can be sent anywhere – rural areas where there is no electricity, proper drinking water, etc. – might not have access to basic facilities. But students should be prepared for it, in the sense that fieldwork is where they will receive learning about society – problems, issues. It is where they have to reflect what they learn in the classroom.

We teach students how to work with people in rural areas, tribal communities, etc. Fieldwork is exactly where they go and have a hands-on experience of what the situation really is. Hence, students who want to pursue social work should be ready to face these kinds of situations because students are sent even to very remote areas, as well as to cities so that there will be a diverse range of exposure for the students – from rural, poor community, marginalised community, slum areas, in urban context, or in field areas like Jammu and Kashmir, southern part of India, or even Bangladesh.

Dr. Joseph Riamei

So students must be ready for diverse exposures regarding field work.

Fieldwork is where they get energised about social work because they are directly communicating and are directly seeing the lived-experiences of the people. I have observed that students return back from fieldwork with lots of enthusiasm, lots of energy and also lots of learning, unlearning and relearning. They unlearn something and they relearn something new from the field – that is the process of fieldwork. Students come back very happy.

What steps can students take to ensure that they are prepared for the real-world application of their social work studies?

When students are sent for fieldwork, they are sent through organisations or agencies, NGOs, etc. We are rooted through NGOs. So once students pass out, they have certain kinds of experience of working under different types of organisations. Because there are certain rules and regulations that students need to follow in their fieldwork. It becomes much easier to absorb once they pass out and go out into the field of employment, or to work with certain types of NGOs or organisations like ActionAid, Butterflies – Delhi, Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA) – Nagaland, North East Network (NEN), Kudumbashree – Kerala, Chaupal – Chhattisgarh, Srijan – Madhya Pradesh, Impulse NGO – Shillong, etc. 

Can you share us diverse career paths available to social work graduates?

Students who pass out are mostly absorbed in –  i) the NGOs, ii) government projects based like National Rural Health Mission, National Rural Livelihood Mission, etc., iii) some students go for further studies like Ph.D in India and abroad, iv) some can start their own NGO and do excellent work in the community.

TISS scholarship for ST/SC students-

For ST and SC students eligible for the post-matric Government of India scholarship at our institute, we offer scholarships that waive their semester fees for the entire study period. They are only responsible for hostel fees, dining hall fees, etc.


What inspires you the most?

Commitment, innovation 

A book that you recently finished reading

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

One thing you wish you knew at 20


By Moakala T Aier Updated: Jun 12, 2024 12:38:00 am
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