At this very moment, there are people only you can reach … and differences only you can make (Dooley). But to do this you need to study …

Social Work

“Social work is both a profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people to address life challenges and enhance quality of life. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work” (IFSW, 2014). Therefore, the aim of our four-year undergraduate BSW qualification is to provide students with an academic and clinical professional toolkit to address, and execute the above-mentioned goals (SAQA 10105/14).

The purpose of the Bachelor of Social Work degree is to provide a well-grounded, generic, professional education that prepares reflexive graduates who are able to engage with people from micro- to macro- levels of social work, within a dynamic socio-political and economic context. The qualification is designed to equip graduates to engage people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work and are reinforced by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge. Therefore, the aim of our four-year undergraduate BSW qualification is to provide students with an academic and clinical professional toolkit to address, and execute the above-mentioned goals (IFSW 2014, SAQA 10105/14 and CHE 2015).

Students are exposed to practical experience in different social service organisations throughout the learning programme, thereby acquiring practical skills, social work knowledge, and the conduct necessary for the profession. Registration with the South African Council for Social Service Professions as a student social worker is a statutory requirement because they engage in providing professional social services to individuals, families, groups, organisations, and communities.

Our Department of Social Work also offers a research Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) and a doctoral degree in Social Work (PhD with specialisation in Social Work). The research master’s degree requires two years’ study that entails research with the main purpose of developing advanced competencies in research and expert knowledge in the field of study. The doctoral degree is attained through a three- to four-year programme. It involves research with the focus on producing substantial, independent, in-depth, and publishable work. The research must meet international standards, must be unique or innovative, and it must make a significant contribution to the discipline or practice of social work.

Do you like the academia? Do you want to assist people, and make a difference in society? Then you are the ideal candidate for a qualification in social work.

Head of Department
Dr Merlene Esau
+27 51 401 3120

Programme Director
Prof Roelf Reyneke
+27 51 401 2356

Senior Assistant Officer
Jill Valentine
+27 51 401 3358
+27 51 401 2325

Departmental Highlights
Dr Merlene Esau

Summary of Research Dissertation for PhD

A community-based intervention programme for child-headed households

Children from child-headed households is a phenomenon of concern, as they experience many constraints that impede their well-being. If these children do not receive the necessary attention, the chances are high that they might end up in a situation where they might not escape their current situation. Therefore, opportunities must be created so that their capabilities can be enhanced and they will be able to achieve the functionings they value.

In attending to the aforementioned phenomenon, the research dissertation's purpose was to develop a community-based intervention programme for child-headed households. This programme's intention was eventually to appraise opportunities that should be created and implemented and that could empower the children concerned to achieve their functionings and live a life that they value doing and being.

Dr Ncube

Mpumelelo Ncube holds a PhD in social work. He is the incoming Head of Department of Social Work and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Free State.

His research niche is social work supervision and developmental social welfare. He further supervisees post graduate research students. He has previously worked in the public, private and NGO sectors. Dr Ncube has been in the academia since 2013.

Prof Mariëtha Reyneke
Prof Mariëtha Reyneke

Prof Mariëtte Reyneke (ed) practised law at the Bloemfontein Bar before she joined the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State. In the past, she served as faculty manager, Programme Director for the LLB and BCom law programmes and was the manager of the Unit for Children’s Rights. She is passionate about education law and children’s rights and teaches it at the Faculty of Education and Centre for Human Rights. Mariëtte teaches several modules on undergraduate level and provides study guidance to master and PhD students. She has delivered numerous papers across the world, published in national and international journals and acted as guest editor on a special issue of the Journal for Juridical Science on education law. She did her PhD at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands on ‘The best interests of the child in school discipline in South Africa’. She provides training workshops to educators on restorative discipline with her husband, Roelf. Mariëtte serves on the executive committee of the Interuniversity Centre for Education Law and Policy and is currently the vice-president of the South African Education Law Association.

Prof Roelf Reyneke
Prof Roelf Reyneke

Prof Roelf Reyneke (ed) is the Programme Director of the Programme for Social Service Professions in the Department of Social Work at the University of the Free State. At undergraduate level, he teaches welfare law, anti-discriminatory social work, supervision, management and ethics as well as adventure-based counselling. At a post-graduate level, he provides study guidance to master’s and PhD students. Roelf has a passion for school social work and has trained hundreds of teachers in how to work restoratively with learners. He has published chapters in books as well as various articles in scientific journals. He has presented papers nationally and internationally, and his main research areas of interest include school social work, restorative practices and adventure-based counselling. Roelf is also involved in the training of student facilitators on campus to facilitate discussions on difficult topics.

Restorative school discipline: The Law and Practice

Book Info

Reyneke, M and Reyneke, R eds. 2020. Restorative school discipline: The Law and Practice. Cape Town: Juta.

This book on restorative school discipline, the law and practice seeks to provide an alternative approach to discipline. Restorative discipline is a value-driven approach that respects the human rights of every stakeholder and protects everyone's human rights. However, to implement this approach, a complete mind shift is required. This mindset requires an understanding that to discipline learners is to teach socially acceptable behaviour. The restorative approach entails moving away from methods that merely focuses on the ill-disciplined learner, and the focus is instead on preventing disciplinary issues. Changing the culture of the school and restoring the harm done to those affected by the misconduct, the restorative approach focuses on finding solutions to address the needs and interests of all the role-players in the school community, rather than punishments. Focusing on the best interests of every learner and the interests of educators is paramount in the restorative approach.

The restorative approach to discipline is explained in detail, including the role of each stakeholder in the implementation of this approach. The social justice implications are highlighted, and the impact of discipline on the neurological functioning and development of the child receives attention. The book provides practical guidance for SGB's, educators, school social workers, practitioners and academics and other stakeholders such as the Department of Basic Education on how to implement the restorative approach to discipline. The constitutional imperatives and the legal framework related to school discipline are also examined.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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