SEKHUKHUNE – The Democratic Alliance in Limpopo has expressed disappointment over the provincial social development department’s alleged keeping of social work graduates in the lurch and its alleged plans to end the scholarships.

The DA said it was deeply disappointed by the fact that the Limpopo Department of Social Development had no plans to absorb over a thousand social work graduates from their scholarship programme.

According to the party, during the recent development portfolio committee meeting, the department conceded that it would not be able to absorb the social work graduates from its scholarship programme in the foreseeable future and that it would cost R458 million to do so.

Suzan Phala, DA Limpopo Spokesperson on social development, said the scholarship programme stated that recipients ought to undertake to serve the department, an Non Government Organisation (NGO), or another department they were transferred to for a continuous period of the number of years sponsored, plus one extra year.

Phala said that during the same meeting, it was also revealed that the scholarship would also be stopped by the department due to its failure absorb graduates.

“This is worrying as there is a great need for social workers as the province faces a great need for social workers in special schools and with the increasing cases of abuse of children, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) as well as alcohol and drug abuse,” said Phala.

She said that the last intake of 20 students was said to be graduating soon and it seemed inevitable that unemployment awaited the group.

“What is of great concern is that in previous meetings, the department told the committee that it would be approaching the provincial treasury to stop the programme in order to direct those funds into absorbing graduates. However, during the last meeting, it was said that the funds were not available.

The DA is deeply disappointed that the department does not take this profession’s contribution to society seriously by failing to ensure that all these unemployed graduates are absorbed and dispatched to various areas of the province to help our communities.

Many of these graduates are from poor homes and had applied for the department’s scholarship and studied social work in the hope of being employed by the department,” said Phala.

She concluded that the consequence of a shortage of social workers was devastating and that the department ought to show serious intent to employ the graduates to provide vital service to the province. 

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