Kirsty Rowe, in her article, “Why I’m proud to be a social worker”, wakes the world up with her message that, “Being a social worker isn’t something you just do at work, it’s not a uniform you put on each morning and take off at night…it is being established in deep professional social values and living them out in such a courageous way that changes lives.” Rowe’s view represents the heart of social work. Anyone practicing, teaching, or training to become a social worker must look closely and see that social work is not only the most needed profession but is adventurous and exciting. Consider the different evidences provided below that make social work an outstanding career and evaluate your attitude towards this remarkable profession.
The essence of Social Work
According to the Canadian Association of Social Work Education, Social Work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. While social work is concerned with individual and personal problems, it is also concerned with broader social issues such as poverty, unemployment, and domestic violence. There are various types of social workers: Child, Family, and School social workers who help children, families, and elderly people resolve their problems. There are also mental health and substance abuse social workers who help people with a wide variety of mental health problems.
The urgent need for Social Workers in Uganda
According to Oscar Otindo a Kenyan writer, the social problems in Uganda are so severe that critical social work intervention had to be made. For instance, Poverty and disease are linked problems in Uganda that are compounded by poor sanitation, unclean water, and inadequate housing. Only 52 percent of the population has access to clean water. Although food is easily grown in Uganda, sporadic droughts cause severe famines. Uganda suffers from a very high infection rate of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The Ministry of Health estimated that by the end of 2015, about 1.46 million people in Uganda were living with HIV. The HIV prevalence in the general population increased from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% by 2011. The other most common ailments include prenatal and maternal conditions, malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, cholera, dysentery, plague, and human sleeping sickness, have occurred more frequently as a result of the breakdown of the health system.
More so, in a research by Africa and the World-an international Organization (2014), Uganda is the world’s leading country with the youngest population who feel lost and fatherless and this has been associated with an increase in crime rates as most are involved in drug abuse and its related problems of domestic violence, mental illness, and teenage pregnancies among others. “Most of the problems of the country are both societal and individual based, that can only be addressed through change of behavior and I’m happy the youth are talking sense, talking about un-employment, poverty and capital to solve those problems through our social agencies. They are talking the right language,” H.E Yoweri Kagutta Museveni in state house on the 12th August 2014 during the youth day
Social Work deserves your best strength
This is why being a social worker has never been more relevant and exciting. For the student who landed into social work as the last resort – I am glad you are reading this. One social worker, Lucy, when asked about her passion for social work, answered, “I didn’t always want to be a social worker, I don’t think many people do. I doubt it makes the list when children are asked what they want to do when they grow up. But it is no doubt the best profession I know today.” Lucy understood that while Social Work has not yet been fully established in people’s minds as a great profession, its results lead to impact and personal satisfaction like no other profession.
Social Work is a place, not of comfort and convenience – but of daily determination to make a difference. The social worker’s daily task is unpredictable at best. No day is similar to the day before. For example, Janet was a social worker in one of the suburbs in Kampala. When asked her honest opinion about her social work, she said, “I am lucky to have a job which avails chance to build relationships and empower people.” She essentially said that there is no job she would rather do than be a social worker.
Keep your hand on the plough
As most of you should have experienced that there is a public myth and misconception about the huge profession social work, questions like where will you work, how you call yourself, can’t anyone become a social worker? Why do you have to study it? John Maxwell (2013) once said, “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all?” Who can rise to their full Social Work potential without first being established in the profession? Now this therefore comes with PASSION AND LOVE for the profession. It was Jesus of Nazareth who rejected all who put their hand to the plough and looked back. He knew that there would be many struggles and difficulties that his followers would face, yet, He only accepted those who were “all in”. So, just like any other profession we (students, practitioners, and social welfare organizations, government departments of social work and many other stake holders should wake up and embrace this mighty profession to shine for the good it was meant for.
Consequences of this reluctance
It takes time and effort to establish a profession. For a profession to be established, there must be research, practice, evaluation, promotions, debates, group associations, gatherings, quality education in that profession, vigilant students, etc. Yet, in Uganda’s current state of affairs, where students seem reluctant, how can we expect this amazing profession to be established. One clear consequence of student reluctance is the general lack of establishment of the social work profession in Uganda.
Secondly, the quality of social work graduates served to the nation’s communities as the “best” the school has to offer, come to work unprepared and unconfident in their role. The graduate has to be holistically with people skills, legal knowledge, counseling skills, physiological skills, discernment, social administration skills, emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills, and other vital skills. For any society to rejoice over new skilled graduates, this must become true: students must take this needed profession very seriously and decide to be “all-in”.
Rekindle your passion for Social Work
As exciting as social work is, there are often discouraging elements of the job or the study. For example: The magnitude of the work, the ever darkening social environment man is creating, the obstructing laws that slow social workers down or make it extremely difficult for them to work, the poor perception from educational institutes, the complexity of dealing with core problems such as sin and fallible nature of man-kind, etc. Yet, all social workers must get excited because it is to this task that we are mandated. It starts with a passion for social work. If you are a student or practitioner today, rekindle your passion today.
15th March, 2017, a social work seminar for social work training institutions was held at the University of Kisubi. Deliberation ensued as many students demonstrated more eagerness and passion for social work. Many decried the poor view of the social work profession and pledged continued support towards campaigns that would make this amazing profession more visible. At this event, the National Association of Social Worker of Uganda (NASWU) president Mr. Charles Draecabo called for a collective effort from students, instructors, and practitioners to tell the social work story and show the world this amazing career that is making a difference.
The Commitment message to learners
Your effort put in studies makes all social workers proud. It is fitting to appreciate all social work training institutions, yet the challenge and task before you remain. Continuous research and innovations should continue in the social work field in line with the transforming world, better ways of understanding Social Work and solving social problems are encouraged and with combined efforts there will be amazement at how much social workers can achieve. Let all social workers, take advantage of the National Association for Social Workers Uganda-NASWU to access the various capacity building programs
The course has covered a wide range of issues that are designed to make you reflect on your own life experiences and on the experiences and perceptions of service users and practitioners. The title , ‘Focusing on individuals’, reminds you that social work is about working with people, as service users and as colleagues, and that you are also one of the people in this process. We hope that working through it has prompted you to reflect on your own practices, feelings, thoughts and reactions.
With this, social work profession will be accorded that due respect that it deserves because it is the “Mother of all professions” as echoed by Pius Ochowo, Director of School of Graduate Studies and Research University of Kisubi.
- Ferguson, K. M. (2005): Beyond Indigenization and Reconceptualization
- Midgley, J. (1981): Professional Imperialism: Social Workin the Third World. … in proposed Master of Social Work programs (Kenya and Uganda only).
Social Work Student,
University of Kisubi