UK universities engages Malawi on social workers’ quality service delivery

Two UK top-notch universities have joined forces to support Malawi raise her profile on social work and the profession’s workers’ welfare.

Dr Simon Cauvain, Nottingham Trent University head of Social Work at the school of Social Sciences

Social work is stressful

Chanco where social workers are mould and made

Nottingham Trent University and University of Lincoln both located in East Midlands, England have partnered in a bid to help the southern African country to improve on the quality of service delivery on social services.

Dr Simon Cauvain, Nottingham Trent University head of Social Work at the school of Social Sciences and Dr Janet Walker, head of the school of Health and Social Care at University of Lincoln recently visited Liwonde Township in Machinga district to help in raising awareness on the importance of a viable and working social service as well as raising the profile of social work as a profession that requires nobility.

“Malawi is a beautiful country but one that is suffering extreme poverty. Social work, in its broadest sense is well established as an essential way to help support those most vulnerable,” said Dr. Cauvain.

During their visit, which saw them deliver a Practice Education course to 22 Malawian social workers, aims to create capacity for more social worker placements to be available for Malawian students and for there to be consistent approach to supporting and judging practice performance.

Cauvain further said: “Our work in professionalising social work through Afrocentric lens is certainly challenging but an important step in building the resources to meet a growing need.”

“Cultural sensitivity is crucial and while we know our work is important, we would be defending the object if we were to impose only what we believe should work. We have therefore prioritised the need to actively listen to colleagues with indigenous knowledge, collaborate and co-produce. Only then can we hope to make a difference,” said Cauvain.

With the hope that social work will soon be recognised as having professional status, the two UK high-ranking universities’ top officials’ visit to Malawi is part of the ongoing work by the charity supporting Social Work in Malawi (SSWIM) which Dr Cauvain has supported for the last four years.

Nottingham Trent University has over Malawian 50 students (both local and international) at both undergraduate and postgraduate level currently pursuing various disciplines at the institution with most of the students studying social and health care.

‘Less decoloniality’

The wider agenda of professionalising social work led by SSWIM has so far facilitated numerous visits from the UK to Malawi.

Visiting volunteers help maintain the BSc Qualifying Social Work programme at the country’s prestigious higher learning institution, The University of Malawi, Chancellor College (Chanco) in Malawi’s old capital, Zomba with books and other relevant subject materials.

On her part, Lincoln University Health and Social Care head of department, Dr Janet Walker said: “Practice placements are embedded within the course and help students put theory into practice, testing out their knowledge and skills before achieving qualified status.

On the future training Cauvain said:” The trainees provided excellent course feedback that has secured their direct involvement in future delivery towards a model of eventual self-reliance and in-house provision. We are striving for a legacy that nurtures nothing less decoloniality.”

‘Life-changing tool’

SSWIM is the main initiative of the charity Children and Families International Foundation established in 2007 in response to requests from government and academic institutions in Malawi for support in developing social work education and practice. Our aim is to provide this support in a way which is sustainable for the long term and does not build dependency.

SSWIM members include senior social work academics from five UK universities who bring expertise in teaching and research at a national and international level and social work practitioners, senior in their field, who are experienced in planning and delivering social care services.

SSWIM works in partnership with colleagues at University of Malawi since 2011.

Social work is a strong and important profession with a holistic base but often neglected or ignored and but the people working in it are trained to work with people from all walks of life and across the divide who regardless of their circumstances – are part of complex human systems.

Wezzie Kamanga-Mwalweni, a social work student at Oxford Brookes University said: “Social workers are a backbone of any society. They are vital to the ongoing stability of society because they are at the heart of communities.”

” Social workers, in my opinion, have unique expertise because they assess and plan for need, empower people, put services around the person and work with children, the youth, the elderly and families at early stages to prevent problems,” added Kamanga-Mwalweni.

Nottingham Trent University Health and Social work graduate and alumni, Denis Hero Mwandira said: “Social work can change lives and it is a ‘life-changing tool’ in any society in the world and it is encouraging that my alma mater is involved in helping my country Malawi as this will go a long way in giving us, as a country, a chance to create conditions for social work to thrive.”

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Yafet Kanyinji
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Yafet Kanyinji

Thank you Dr Simon and Dr Janet for visiting Malawi just to raise the Social Work Flag, there is need to recognize this profession in Malawi and beyond. Social workers indeed we have unique knowledge and skills to change the life of the most vulnerable communities.
Yafet Kanyinji
Cavendish University Zambia trained social worker.

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