Nurturing professional social work in Malawi
Social work training in Malawi started with a community development certificate in 1964 and later a certificate in social welfare in 1978. In 2006, the first degree programme was introduced. As of 2016, three universities offered degree programmes. Despite this long history, social work has not been fully professionalised. Most of the work that social workers should be doing, especially at senior levels, is being done by non-social workers. This applies to both government and non-government social work positions, although there are signs of improvement. Further to this, there is no regulating or coordinating body for social work education, research and practice. A regulating body of social work in Malawi would enhance development of the profession. Current social work teaching and practice follows Western models, some of them not very appropriate to the local context. Recognition of indigenous approaches, local socio-economic conditions and cultural underpinnings would assist in contextualizing the curriculum and ultimately, making social work in Malawi culturally relevant. Reflective and evidence based practice could help in this process. The researcher used desk research to review social work practice and education in Malawi and argues that the best way to nurture the profession is for social work educators and practitioners to interact and learn from each other. A reflexive approach where curriculum and practice would inform each other is recommended. Consequently, contextually relevant curriculum and a strong theory backed practice would be achieved.
KEY TERMS: Malawi, social work, education, curriculum, practice, reflection, evidence, indigenous methods