KAMPALA —While appearing on NTV’s political talk-show – on the spot – on Thursday last week to discuss the unemployment situation in Uganda, Ms. Rose Namayanja said “some useless courses need to be scrapped at the University. Courses such as social work are partly responsible for the unemployment problem that Uganda is grappling with”. Ms. Namayanja is not the first top government official to openly attack the social work profession with statements that not only undermine the profession but also link it to the unemployment problem.
President Museveni has always belittled the social work program and often used it as an example of courses that need to be scrapped from the university curriculum as graduates of such a “useless” course are the reason the country is failing to fix unemployment.
These statements only demonstrate how the government has shifted its efforts away from addressing the root causes of problems the country faces and focused on the symptoms.
Unemployment is a much bigger problem and by far – cannot be attributed to one university program whose total graduates annually do not even exceed six percent across all Universities in Uganda. For anyone to argue that social work is a “useless” course, tantamount to advancing an argument out of ignorance and clear lack of understanding of what social workers do in the wider society.
Social Work was founded in the 19th century, initially, to address the problems that resulted after the collapse of feudalism.
Feudal was a dominant social system in medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries, in which the nobles held lands from the crown in exchange for military service and peasants were obliged to live on the noble’s land in exchange for labor and a share of the produce.
After the collapse of this system, the poor became a threat to social order especially, following the injustices that had been meted on them during the feudal system. It is during this time that governments then created an organized approach to provide various forms of care to the poor to create social order. Since then, the profession has evolved to tackle issues of poverty, social justice, health and mental illness; social development, counseling among others. It remains the only diverse profession that continues to stitch communities together to drive social order.
Ugandans are struggling with many social problems mostly arising from hopelessness, deprivation, injustice, and failure to make ends meet. These problems in most cases drive crime if people don’t see hope insight and if help doesn’t come quickly.
Many social workers are working daily, to offer counseling services to help some of these people re-discover themselves and give life a second chance. If it wasn’t for such services that social workers continue to offer to Ugandans, perhaps places like Butabika would not be enough for the mentally disturbed or we would have more prisoners than what our prisons can hold.
In most corporate organizations, several Human Resources Managers have their background in social work. This profession has produced some of the most outstanding HR professionals of all times that have gone on to build remarkable organizations with strong human capital.
Today, you will find social workers in financial services, health, child protection, accountancy, management, and several other fields. This only goes to show how diverse this program is and the numerous opportunities that await those who study the course.
Therefore, to argue that social work is a useless course that should be scrapped is absurd and goes to demean the work and efforts of many social work professionals serving this country diligently and working to address some of the most difficult social problems that government would otherwise find difficult to tackle on its own.
Attacking social work is missing an opportunity to tackle much bigger problems fueling unemployment.
Mr. Nathan Were is a Social Worker, currently supporting financial inclusion efforts in Africa.