Challenges of Social Work Students from Historically Disadvantaged Universities during Placements in Semi-Rural Areas in South Africa




historically disadvantaged, field instruction, field placements, social work students


This study highlights the challenges faced by social work students during their fourth-year field placements. The research was conducted among social work students at two historically disadvantaged universities in South Africa. The aim of the study was to understand the field experiences of final-year Bachelor of Social Work students from historically disadvantaged universities. It was anticipated that these students were placed at rural or semi-rural communities that were close to the university. Students in the fourth and final year of their undergraduate study are expected to receive training that would generate advanced field practice experience in specialised settings to prepare them for the reality of social work practice in the workplace. A qualitative study was undertaken among current and past social work students. The findings highlighted issues pertaining to limited placements, poorly managed student placements, access to communities, and supervision challenges. However, the key findings indicate that once placed, the students felt abandoned by their training institutions and left to rely solely on their field supervisors for academic, administrative and developmental guidance. The study recommends that universities be more adept at fulfilling the needs of students and providing comprehensive support. The study also recommends that a suitably administered system of communication between the university, student and placement agency be implemented as part of the comprehensive support to students.


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Author Biography

Varoshini Nadesan, University of Johannesburg

Lecturer PhD

Department of Social Work



How to Cite

Nadesan, Varoshini. 2020. “Challenges of Social Work Students from Historically Disadvantaged Universities During Placements in Semi-Rural Areas in South Africa”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 32 (3):17 pages .



Received 2019-06-29
Accepted 2020-07-26
Published 2020-10-31