Social Work In Botswana

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Increasingly, a growing divide is taking place between calls for a global, by and large homogeneous social work, and different, locally situated, social work practices. However, little of the debate rests on systematic data on how social workers in different socio-political and cultural settings actually go about their trade and why. This article begins filling in this lacuna by examining social work “in action” in Botswana to see whether indeed we need to relate to social work as one or more professional bodies of practice.

In 1991, Giddens identified globalization as ‘a term which must have a key position in the lexicon of the social sciences’ (p. 21) and, rarely left behind, social work adopted it too. Today we hear, therefore, of terms
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The Kalahari Desert covers 85% of the land, and although the average annual precipitation is fairly healthy, droughts, often severe, are more the norm than the exception. Consequently, it is mainly on the country’s more hospitable eastern rim where most inhabitants reside. In 2005, these people numbered 1.7 million, which makes Botswana one of the least populated nations.

The climate and poor soils have fully determined the country’s historical legacy. In 1885, Britain reluctantly declared her a protectorate, chiefly to offset Germany’s expansion from South West Africa (today’s Namibia) and to prevent Cecil Rhodes from privatising the land in his quest to link Africa by rail. From this time, and for the next 80 years, life went on virtually undisturbed, as the handful of foreign administrators was made lethargic by the economy’s incapacity to cover even their salaries. Indeed, such a backwater was Botswana regarded, that an ironically named Resident Commissioner ran her from outside her borders, and her only claim to fame arose from the marriage of a local royal to a white English woman, which offended the racial assumption of colonial
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Historically, poverty was the lot chiefly of lone female-headed families (constituting 46 percent of all households) and of the 40,000 strong indigenous people, variously known as the San, the First People of the Kalahari or Bushmen. Increasingly, however, the ranks of the poor are being reinforced with people affected by HIV/AIDS, which infects 38 percent of all adults.

Botswana Social Work
Social work’s first steps in Botswana trace to 1946 with the establishment of a welfare unit in the Department of Education, initially to assist veterans who had served in the British army in World War II. But with only three officers at the best of times, and personal interests that ran chiefly to promoting the Boy Scouts, little progressed for two decades, particularly as the unit was confined to working in the urban centres where only 3 percent of the population lived at the
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