social work


May Nigeria not happen to you! What does this popular lingo really mean to non-Nigerians? It simply means that Nigeria can so frustrate you that it greatly limits your ability and desire to have big dreams. Come to think of it if all the technological innovators like Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Spiegel, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Late Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison etc were Nigerians, would their inventions have seen the light of day? Wouldn’t they have been advised to study hard, get good grades so that they would be employable in the highly crowded labour market? We all recall the tragically nameless inventor of the yam pounder machine who had to sell his patented invention to the Japanese who then went ahead to make a fortune untold off his brilliant invention. Nigeria is indeed a killer of dreams and destinies which explains why most of her youths would give their arm and leg to relocate abroad or ‘japa’ in their quest for a more meaningful existence and a brighter future for their unborn offspring who may curse them for not making hay while the sun shone in going to faraway lands on economic exile so that they don’t end up at the bottom end of the spectrum struggling ad infinitum for the basic necessities of life.

Despite the near failed state tragic reality of the African Continent’s most populous nation, there exists a sturdy though dying family support network that acts as a bulwark in times of crisis especially economic which explains why the concept of old people’s home is alien as well as the unpopularity of rehabilitation centres for juvenile delinquents since the family system which is the epitome of the Biblical ‘Love thy neighbour as yourself’ supports all classes of disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

I recently read an interview granted by Khadijat Idowu, who was the best graduating student in the Social Work Department for the 2021/2022 academic session with a CGPA of 4.91 which was published in the Nigerian Tribune Newspapers on August 20, 2022.

She admitted that social work as a profession isn’t really recognized in Nigeria and like most disillusioned and emotionally distressed youths is at a loss on what to do with the degree, she so diligently invested in.

Social workers are critical in any society as they intervene fearlessly to help solve societal ills. They work hand in hand with the government and other healthcare stakeholders to ensure that vulnerable people like drug and substance abuse addicts are rehabilitated and made never to go back to the destructive habit, victims of domestic violence are well protected and counselled especially for those who desire to leave the abusive marriage, homeless people are made to live with dignity in homeless shelters and they also influence public policy with regards to the aforementioned issues to the betterment of the society.

Khadijat Idowu mentioned the invasion of the noble profession by quacks and the turning of a blind eye by the complicit and corrupt government to their ignoble activities. How sad!

Times are rapidly changing especially in this current VUCA world where there is a lot of uncertainty and disruptive innovations that have rendered hitherto solid business systems obsolete and a worthy study for economic historians. Who could have imagined the burial of Blackberry for the ascension of WhatsApp for example? There are many professions like digital marketing, social media influencing etc that weren’t present in the 1990’s or even early 2000’s and the reality is that there will be many new professions that will be created in the nearest future that aren’t present or visible now. What is the implication of this? The economic unit of the African family is gradually weakening and the ancient practice of it being a buffer against financial shocks is long gone. Not with the massive youth unemployment which the official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics puts it at around 33% and under employment hovers at above 50%.

This means more work and relevance for social workers in dealing with the inevitable societal challenges that modern day living and the reality of living in a collapsed economy brings. The government must heavily invest in their training and create the enabling environment through robust public policies and even legislations for them to practice their profession and achieve professional fulfillment. They shouldn’t be relegated to the background and made to feel like nonentities especially in the psychiatric hospitals where their existence is hardly acknowledged as the psychiatrists seem to be the celebrities there.

This narrative against the obscurity of the Nigerian social worker who is akin to the civil servant that is seen and not heard must change for the overall good of our society.

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