Economic collapse pushes children into streets

HARARE - As the world marks Social Work Day (WSWD) today, an alarming number of children are living on or from the streets.

On the other hand cases of abuse of children have risen exponentially.

Council for Social Work (CSW) chairperson Phillip Bohwasi said the deterioration of social services in the country dampens the spirit of Zimbabweans as they mark WSWD today.

Bohwasi said the increasing numbers of children living on or from the streets speaks volumes about the country’s social security nets.

“The number of articles on various forms of child abuse that we see everyday in the media, all those children we see begging or selling in the streets demands us to take stock of what is happening in social work,” said Bohwasi on Monday.

“We however take the opportunity to conscientise the public and social workers themselves on the importance of social work. As social workers we have not been taking appropriate action when abuse issues are highlighted,” he said.

Zimbabwe is one of the 84 countries in the world that have joined the International Federation for Social Work. But service provision still lags behind.

Research by Unicef and Zimstats has also shown that one in every three girls below 18 is a victim of some form of sexual abuse.

Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa revealed recently that Zimbabwe has the lowest number of social workers compared to other regional countries resulting in one social worker attending to about 50 000 children.

“The audit (done in 2010 by the department of Social Services) indicates that the ratio of social worker to children is in the order of 49 887 children per social worker,” Mpariwa said.

In neighbouring Botswana, one social worker attends to only 1 867 children while every 4 300 children have a social worker in Namibia.

This year’s commemorations are running under the theme “Promoting Social and Economic Equalities”.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW) president Noel Muridzo said resource constraints were currently the major drawback in Zimbabwe’s social service.

“There are so many challenges, so much poverty, children dropping out of school and HIV/Aids,” said Muridzo.

Experts say social work has a critical role in the promotion of social and economic equalities and in striving for a people-focused and regulated economy.

A creative management expert, Lovemore Mbigi, said Zimbabwe’s biggest drawback was a Diaspora population that lacks an entrepreneurial mindset.

“The challenge for Zimbabwe is the lack of a Diaspora population that can create wealth to bankroll programmes at home. We have become objects for charity. It is not just about the curricula but we lack the mindset,” he said.

Mbigi encouraged local social schools to instil a culture of research, creativity and innovation in students.

He added that the most successful social work models are inspired and nourished by local culture, through extended families, and supported by global developments. - Wendy Muperi

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