In an effort to entice prospective social workers and revive interest in the profession, social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi yesterday met social work bursary scheme holders and university professors.
The dialogue at the Miriam Makeba Arts Centre in East London was in partnership with Old Mutual and University of Fort Hare (UFH).
The social worker bursary scheme launched in 2007 funds more than 500 students from all Eastern Cape universities – Nelson Mandela, Rhodes, UFH and Walter Sisulu – each year.
Speaking to more than 300 students, Sihlwayi said their partnership with the university was to strengthen partnership and expand research that ensures social workers are better equipped to deal with social ills like the recent spate of alleged cannibalism incidents.
Those in attendance spoke passionately about “decolonising the curriculum”.
Sihlwayi also launched Social Development month, which looks to address social ills in society through three programmes, namely parental empowerment and support, early childhood development and engaging with and empowering the elderly.
In a statement, Sihlwayi’s spokesman Mzukisi Solani said: “The government-backed scheme, social workers bursary scheme has no payback option, but except to facilitate that social work graduates are produced enough to fill up the deficit in the shortage of social workers in the country.”
Solani, however, said there was a decrease in the number of beneficiaries over the years.
“We have shifted our focus to those who have qualified through us to ensure that they get employment. We don’t just want to produce social workers, but also to see them servicing our communities.
“A concern over the shortage of social workers in South Africa has the potential to threaten livelihoods.
“These efforts are to ensure that the country provides services mostly needed by beneficiaries in terms of the Children’s Bill, and other government’s safety net measures,” said Solani.
In recent months, unemployed social work graduates have protested across the province, demanding to be permanently employed. — firstname.lastname@example.org