By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Four years after the transfer of the Child Welfare Division from the Ministry of Health and Social Services to the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare, there is still a shortage of social workers. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Sirkka Ausiku, says although the ministry’s structure makes provisions for 54 social workers, there are currently only some 25 social workers. This situation has severely strained the ministry in its operations. Ausiku said institutions of higher learning are not producing enough graduates in this field. This academic year, the University of Namibia (Unam) has 14 final-year social work students of which only four are Namibians. “This year, the ministry has only employed four Unam graduate social workers. They are all Zambians. We are trying our best but for now we can only bring in those from other countries,” said Ausiku. The permanent secretary added that the ministry is currently encouraging learners to consider pursuing a career in social work as the local market is desperately in need of social workers. “It is a challenge for the ministry because there is no way we can achieve our goals in this area if we do not have social workers. We are appealing to community leaders to also assist us especially those who can counsel, such as church leaders,” she said. She said that the ministry’s regional offices are working together with councillors in identifying potential learners who could be sponsored to study in this field. “There is a great need for social workers to assist with the psychological problems and give social grants to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) as well as counsel foster parents to orphans,” said Ausiku. There are 45 000 OVC countrywide registered for social grants. So far, each region only has one social worker except for Kunene, which has none. Meanwhile, the Minister of Gender and Social Welfare Marlene Mungunda last Friday commended social workers from all the 13 regions who were gathered in the capital for a one-week workshop for social work and record clerks on customer care and statutory work. The minister stated that the training came at the right time when the ministry was reviewing the services it provides to the public. Following President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s call for effective and timely delivery of services when he addressed permanent secretaries early this year, Mungunda urged social workers to be exemplary and always be patient while delivering good service to the public. She also reminded them to register as many OVC as possible saying this remains the ministry’s first priority.
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