Social Work in Africa

My Africa

 It occurred to me that my mind might think social work, but it is a different kind of social work. It is AFRICAN because I am an African. I feel proud as I write this post because the difference just dawned on me…

If you are a social worker in Africa it doesn’t mean you are doing more than a European social worker or American social worker. For me the glaring difference is the need for social work. Our client base is different, their needs are different. A child in America or Europe will bring problems like drugs, behavior(not listening to mummy or daddy) or being truant at school. Not saying these are not problems, because they are and families stuggle with these everyday. The African child will have these problems in addition to food insecurity, poverty, lack of proper housing and lack of proper education. The burden is definitely more.

Moreover the lack of resources for African social workers often complicate the work that we try to do. Working in a non-profit organisation which is struggling with funds, there is only so much one can do to holistically address client needs. The funds often come from big overseas companies. The result has been frustration caused by high caseloads and low pay and leading to brain drain as social workers flee to Europe or Australia…..greener pastures. Social work even has more recognition overseas than in Africa. Private social work has more clients overseas. in Africa people believe in community intervention through families and friends helping out. How many families pay to see a private social worker or psychologist to deal with a child’s behavioral problems??Not many in the African community.

But what can we do to change this? What agencies are supposed to be building up the social work profession in Africa so that it is also recognised and rewarded? There are forums such as the Council of Social work in my native Zimbabwe and the South African Council of Social Service Professions in South Africa. However there is not much discussion on advocating for the profession and making it more lucrative thereby attracting more social workers to stay in the country. I commend the South African government for giving bursaries for social work study, this has attracted a lot of people to study social work. However the disadvantage has been people doing it without the “calling” , just because there is a free bursary. This has reduced professionalism as these students have to work off the loan they received and are often not interested in social work itself.

I am interested in finding out about how to grow social work in Africa and linking with other social workers around the continent and sharing ideas around this. It is at this point a sad reality that there are people who do not know what social work is. Some associate social work with food parcels, if they hear you are a social worker you are there to solve a food shortage problem. There is lack of knowledge around the profession.

Growing social work starts with the love for social work and even if it begins with one, a difference would have been made. If you have an idea leave me a comment and let us discuss….

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