Another eventful couple of days to report on. On Tuesday we went to the University of Kwa Zulu Natal (UKZN) to meet with the social work faculty and several social work students. They gave us a presentation on social work education and what social work looks like in SA. To my colleagues: the young man (Mthobisi: Mmm-toe-beesee) who is coming to do his fieldwork at FSU this fall is quite impressive. He gave a presentation on some of the work that he has done in a local settlement.
On Wednesday, we visited two agencies, one for domestic violence, and the HIV/AIDS program at a hospital that is in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic in South Africa. The DV program was interesting in that they used much of the same language as we do about DV (e.g., power/empowerment, victim advocacy, control, etc) but the focus is very different (at least at this program – I don’t want to overgeneralize). There was quite a focus on counseling and marital therapy. The shelter – which was currently empty because they have no funding to admit victims – doesn’t allow children over the age of 5, and they reassess a case after a week to determine if they’re ready to leave, although victims can stay longer if they need. Protective orders can last for up to 30 years.
McCord Hospital is doing some amazing work. We heard from the social workers who support the palliative care program and the pediatric AIDS program. It’s all so overwhelming to me, and they all talked about the importance of balance and keeping a sense of humor because the problems in SA are so acute that any type of a caring professional would get very depressed if they didn’t. The students seem to really be enjoying these visits and they are all working out very well.
However, what has preoccupied most of my day (and evening) was that the same students whose room was ransacked had a hotel employee enter their room at 6:45 am without knocking, and then, without apologizing, said he thought there was a maintenance problem reported but that it must have been a mistake. Needless to say, everyone is on edge and we spent much of the day trying to find a different hotel. Of course, none could accommodate the size of our group for the number of days that we need, so the best we could do was get everyone on two floors rather than spread out around the hotel, and we have asked for increased security on our floors. And then, one of the most horrible parts was that the student identified the employee she believed entered her room. He denied doing it. The manager attended a meeting with all of us and said not to worry that they have a particularly effective interrogation method; they take a latex glove and anchor it under his nostrils and pull it over his head and then put a hand over his mouth. He assured us that it was a sure fire way to get a confession. He indicated that it was the primary method of interrogation used by the SA police force. I swear…
Went out for a local beer (Castle) and some yummy Indian food – very self-regulating – and were able to relax and get ready for tomorrow – and whatever it may hold.