“Aspiring social workers and their families need to know that social work is a noble profession, but is not going to make them multi-millionaires.”

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Born to an illiterate mother in a small Mpumalanga town, Dr Masinga’s life had humbler beginnings. As a nine year old, her home was torn apart due to domestic violence. Her future may have taken a different path if it weren’t for the dedication of Mrs Refilwe Makapela, a social worker who visited families in the area.

It was Makapela who inspired Dr Masinga’s life journey.

Despite many obstacles along the way, Dr Masinga pursued her dream to study further after school. First she completed her Diploma in Social Work and later received a BA(Hons) in Psychology at the University of Limpopo.

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But that was not the end.

Dr Masinga left her home soil for the USA and studied at the State University of New York in Buffalo where she achieved her first Masters degree in Child and Family Welfare in 1996 – Just two years after South Africa voted in its first democratically elected president.

While working in the government and non-governmental sectors in the area of social work, Dr Masinga continued to pursue her dream of learning, and eventually ended up with a second Masters qualification, this time in Social Work Management from the University of Pretoria.

She then went on to win a Canon Collins scholarship and achieved her PhD focused on school-based violence prevention while she was working as a lecturer in social policy and community development.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment because I set the goal to complete my studies,” said Masinga. “My family is very proud of me. She told the Benoni City Times in 2017.

Sharing her knowledge and education

In January 2020, Dr Masinga became a part-time lecturer at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology).

By December 2020, she was offered the role of Head of the new Social Work and Community Development faculty with the mandate to oversee the successful implementation of SACAP’s first qualification in Social Work, a Bachelors degree.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to provide our students with an exceptional learning experience that will transform them as people and future social work practitioners,” said Dr Masinga.

“As we prepare for our inaugural intake in 2021, it’s exciting to anticipate our first cohort of graduates who will go out and transform lives and spaces in four years’ time.”

Combatting violence in schools

In a 2018 interview with Radio 702 when she was still a senior lecturer at Wits University, Dr Masinga commented on the scourge of violence in schools.

“Violence is caused by multiple factors – the individuals themselves, their peers, families not taking responsibility and the teachers not knowing what to do and also using the learners against each other.”

“I think what we are missing is that we want to look at violence in isolation. We want to focus on the learner or the teacher or an individual while we should be looking at the multiple factors holistically.”

What does it take to be a social worker?

As someone who has overcome the challenges of poverty, racism and inequality in her own life, Dr Masinga is clear-eyed not just about the rewards but also the rigors of a career in social work.

“Young people considering social work as a profession need to know that it is demanding,” she says.

“You need to be person of high integrity who is compassionate, caring, respectful and inclusive. You need to be passionate about changing people’s lives.”

“However, that comes from effectively working not only with people but within political and economic systems of the day. You must be prepared to challenge injustice head on and advocate for the voiceless and marginalised.”

“Aspiring social workers and their families need to know that social work is a noble profession, but is not going to make them multi-millionaires. Instead, their rich rewards are in changing people’s lives. Pursuing that sense of personal purpose should be the motivating factor to study social work.”

How to become a social worker:

Applications for SACAP’s Bachelor of Social Work are open now.

For more information visit https://www.sacap.edu.za/course/bachelor-of-social-work/