Nov 2015 2nd Edition

Bursaries for social work students

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
It is comforting to know that young people like Mbali Mapela (23), who are committed to caring for the vulnerable in our society, exist.

Mapela from Soweto, Johannesburg, is a social worker employed by the Gauteng Department of Social Development.

She said becoming a social worker was a calling rather than just a career.

“I always knew that I wanted to study social work. I chose this career because I wanted to be the change in my community by being involved and providing assistance to vulnerable people in our society.”

Mapela works directly with young people who have broken the law and comes up with interventions to help them change their lives.

“I get a request from the court to look into the case of a child who has committed a crime. I look at their family situation and find ways to intervene for the betterment of the child. I compile a report for the court on the situation the child is facing.”

Mapela has also faced some adversity in her life. After completing matric at Letsibog Girls High School in Pimville, Soweto, in 2009 she struggled to continue with tertiary education because her mother was unemployed.

“One day I came across an advert in the newspaper in which the Gauteng Department of Social Development was advertising scholarships to study social work. I obtained university entrance at matric level and I decided to apply for the bursary.”

The criteria for interested students includes:

  • Young people who are unemployed.
  • Young people who received university acceptance.
  •  First preference in terms of receiving the bursary is given to foster children, orphans, child-headed families, disabled youth and young people with financial difficulties

She was selected for the scholarship, studied towards a degree in social work at the University of Johannesburg from 2011 and graduated last year.
After completing her degree she was absorbed into the department to work as a social worker.

“I am very grateful to have received this scholarship from government. Working for the department is a way of saying thank you because I would not have been able to further my studies without them.”

Addressing the social worker shortage

The Gauteng Department of Social Development is slowly closing the gap in the social worker shortage.

Between 2007 and 2014 more than 600 young people graduated as qualified social workers after receiving the social work scholarship.
In the 2015/16 financial year the department provided 80 scholarships to young people in the field of social work.

According to the National Department of Social Development the ratio for social workers to the population countrywide is estimated at 1:5000.

The roll out of the scholarship was one of the ways the government was trying to meet the target of 55 000 social service practitioners set out by the National Development Plan.
 Since the scholarship programme started about 8 000 young people have graduated with the department’s assistance, across the country. More than 3500 of these graduates have been absorbed into the public service.

The Gauteng Department of Social Development advertises bursaries for different fields of study and the social work scholarship.

The Gauteng Department of Social Development said that the next intake of students interested in applying for the social work scholarship will be in September 2016. 

Young people can go onto the Department of Social Development’s website on or to find out about opportunities.

Contact 011 355 7600 for assistance in Gauteng.  For other provinces call 012 312 7294 or 012 312 7223.

Those wishing to apply can get in touch with their Provincial Department of Social Development for further assistance, as the National Department of Social Development does not take accept applications.


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