#CareerFocus: A Life-Fulfilling Journey In Social Work

SACAP_Dr Poppy Masinga_Feb2021 (002)
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Dr Poppy Masinga, SACAP Head of Faculty: Social Work and Community Development.

As a child growing up in the small Mpumalanga town, Sabie, Dr. Masinga had her first encounters with the profession of social work. She was raised by a courageous mother along with her three siblings in a home that would be torn apart due to domestic violence by the time she was nine years old.

She crossed paths with Mrs. Refilwe Makapela, a social worker who visited families in her neighborhood providing much-needed support in the poverty-stricken community. This connection made a significant impression on the young Poppy Masinga, and as she gained a hard-won school education over the next years. She followed her inspiration to study, starting with a Diploma in Social Work and later completed a BA(Hons) in Psychology at the University of Limpopo.

This was the first major step Dr. Masinga achieved on a lifelong learning quest that took her to the State University of New York in Buffalo, USA where she achieved her first Masters’s degree in Child and Family Welfare in 1996. She returned to South Africa and continued with her career across government and non-government sectors in social work. However, her passion for learning put her back on the education path.

A second Masters’s qualification, this time in Social Work Management from the University of Pretoria followed. She then went on to win a Canon Collins scholarship and achieved her Ph.D. focused on school-based violence prevention while she was working as a lecturer in social policy and community development. This daughter of an illiterate mother was the first in her family to embark on post-graduate studies, and the first to gain an international education.

In January 2020, Dr. Masinga became a part-time lecturer at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology). The team spirit, progressive leadership, and the sheer quality of the training and education turned out to be a perfect fit for her. 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 have experienced SACAP as an employer compared to none other,” she says. “The work environment and culture, the resources, the work ethic, and collegiality amongst educators and management are incredible.  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. 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.”

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 a 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.”

The current era, with its sharpened focus on resolving long-standing inequalities, facing down the impacts of the climate-related crisis, and promoting well-being for all, offers a wide scope to make a difference in social work.

Applications for SACAP’s Bachelor of Social Work are open now.  For more information: Click here.