Decolonising social work practice in Nigeria

Moving beyond indigenisation to development

Authored by: Ernest Osas Ugiagbe

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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For social work professionals to make a meaningful impact on social development, imported theories and models – of social work and of development – require thorough interrogation. A decolonised model of practice for social work in Nigeria not only needs to engage with local cultures and traditions, but also with development policy. It needs to understand the myriad forces impacting on local policy and program development, and the relationship between foreign aid, poverty alleviation, and social development. Social work’s concern with the social wellbeing of vulnerable, marginalised, and oppressed groups in society is best understood in light of broader interventions aimed at poverty alleviation and social development. Social work cannot continue to focus narrowly on personal, family, and community problems without engaging with broader social change and development. Social work favours development models that seek the empowerment and liberation of people, but theories of human behaviour and social systems are too narrow if social work truly seeks to promote human rights and social justice (Gray, 2010). Of necessity, engagement in social policy and political systems is needed given the way neoliberal development programs foster gross inequalities and perpetuate policies that benefit rich nations in the North at the expense of developing nations in the South.

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