What can social workers learn from African proverbs?


  • Prospera Tedam




African proverbs, African students, black students, creative arts, global social work, teaching and learning


There continues to be a call on social work education to incorporate diverse teaching and learning resources and strategies to meet the needs of its diverse learners. Proverbs tend to be well known metaphors, which are memorable and are passed on from one generation to the next, and exist in all cultures and in many languages. This paper presents an innovative and creative use of proverbs to facilitate this process, and provides students from different cultures the opportunity to understand and contextualise aspects of social work education and practice. The paper proposes the use of African proverbs to enhance learning for the growing numbers of African students of social work in England.

It is hoped that the use of proverbs, which combine cultural heritage and literature as creative arts, will enable students to view the world of social work with an additional lens, making it relevant, interesting and meaningful. The proverbs used in this paper have been translated from various African languages into English.

Writing from the perspective of a black female African social work academic, I believe it is important that black people are producers of knowledge and ideas in order to become a part of the writing of their own history.


Agbaje, J.B. (2002) Proverbs: A strategy for resolving conflict in Yoruba society. <i>Journal of African Cultural Studies</i>, 15, 2, 237-243\nBartoli, A., Kennedy, S. and Tedam, P. (2008) Practice learning: Who is failing to adjust? Black African student experience of practice learning in a social work setting. <i>Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning</i>, 8, 2, 75-90\nCameron, A. and Lart, R. (2003) Factors promoting and obstacles hindering joint working: A systematic review of the research evidence<i>. Journal of Integrated Care</i>, 11, 2, 9-17\nClifford, V. and Joseph, C. (2005) <i>Report of the Internationalisation of Curriculum Project</i>. Melbourne: Monash University\nCollege of Social Work (2012) <i>Reforming Social Work Qualifying Education. The Social Work Degree</i>. <a target="_blank" href='http://www.tcsw.org.uk/uploadedFiles/TheCollege/_CollegeLibrary/Reform_resources/ReformingSWQualifyingEducation(edref1)(1).pdf'>http://www.tcsw.org.uk/uploadedFiles/TheCollege/_CollegeLibrary/Reform_resources/ReformingSWQualifyingEducation(edref1)(1).pdf</a>\nCollins, S. (2008) Statutory social workers: Stress, job satisfaction, coping, social support and individual differences. <i>British Journal of Social Work</i>, 38, 6, 1173-1193\nCooper, L. (2002) Social work supervision: A social justice perspective, in M. McMahon and W. Patton (Eds.) <i>Supervision in the Helping Professions: A practicalapproach</i>. Australia: Pearsons Education (pp.185–195)\nCurtis, L., Moriarty, J. and Netten, A. (2010) The expected working life of a social worker. <i>British Journal of Social Work</i>, 40, 5, 1628-1643.\nDaniel, C. (2011) Lessons learned: Pedaogical tensions and struggles with instruction on multiculturalism in social work education programmes. <i>Social Work Education</i>, 3, 3, 250-265\nDepartment for Education and Skills (2006) <i>Multi-agency Working: Toolkit for practitioners</i>. <a target="_blank" href='http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/strategy/integratedworking/a0069013/multi-agency-working'>http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/strategy/integratedworking/a0069013/multi-agency-working</a>\nDirkx, J.M. (1998) Transformative learning theory in the practice of adult education: an overview. <i>PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning</i>, 7, 1-14\nFerguson, H. (2009) Performing child protection: Home visiting, movement and the struggle to reach the abused child. <i>Child and Family Social Work</i>, 14, 4, 471- 480\nFrost, N. (2005) <i>Professionalism, Partnership and Joined-up Thinking: A Research Review of Front-line Working with Children and Families</i>. <a target="_blank" href='http://www.rip.org.uk/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&category_id=7&product_id=42&vmcchk=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=57'>http://www.rip.org.uk/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&category_id=7&product_id=42&vmcchk=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=57</a>\nGoldstein, H. (1999) The limits and art of understanding in social work practice. <i>Families in Society</i>, 80: 385–395\nGrant, R.A. and Asimeng-Boahene, L. Cultural responsive pedagogy in citizenship education: Using African proverbs as tools for teaching in urban schools. <i>Multicultural Perspectives</i>, 8, 4, 17-24\nHCPC (Health Care Professionals Council) (2012) <i>Standards of Proficiency: Social Workers in England</i>. <a target="_blank" href='http://www.collegeofsocialwork.org/uploadedFiles/ TheCollege/_CollegeLibrary/Reform_resources/ReformingSWQualifyingEdu cation(edref1)(1).pdf'>http://www.collegeofsocialwork.org/uploadedFiles/ TheCollege/_CollegeLibrary/Reform_resources/ReformingSWQualifyingEdu cation(edref1)(1).pdf</a>\nIbanez, J.G. (2002) Using proverbs in chemistry. <i>Journal of Chemical Education</i>, 79, 4, 454-455\nJones, P. (2009) Teaching for change in social work: A discipline based argument for the uses of transformative approaches to teaching and learning. <i>Journal of Transformative Education</i>, 7, 1, 8-25\nKadushin, A. (2002) <i>Supervision in Social Work</i>. New York: Columbia University Press\nKoprowska, J. (2008) <i>Communication and Interpersonal Skills in Social Work</i>. (2nd ed.). Exeter: Learning Matters\nLaming, H. (Lord) (2003) <i>The Victoria Climbié Inquiry Report</i>. London: HMSO\nManzo, A.V. (1981) The proverbs mastery paradigm, or come faceva mia nonna (the way my grandmother did it). <i>The Reading Teacher</i>, 34, 411-416\nMcKie, L. and Cunningham-Burley, S. (2005) <i>Families in Society: Boundaries and Relationships</i>. Bristol: Policy Press\nMezirow, J. (1996) Contemporary paradigms of learning. <i>Adult Education Quarterly</i>, 46, 3, 158-172\nMieder, W. (1993): <i>Proverbs are Never out of Season. Popular wisdom in the modern age</i>. New York: Oxford University Press\nMieder, W. (2004) <i>Proverbs: A handbook.</i> London: Greenwood\nMorrison, T. (2006) <i>Staff Supervision in Social Care: Making a real difference for staff and service users</i>. (3rd ed.) Brighton: Pavilion\nPayne, M. (1996) <i>What is Professional Social Work</i>? Birmingham: Venture\nPepicello, W.J. and Green, T.A. (1984) <i>The Language of Riddles: New perspectives</i>. Columbus: Ohio State University Press\nSchon, D. (1991) <i>The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action</i>. Aldershot: Ashgate\nSegrin, C. and Flora, J. (2005) <i>Family Communication</i>. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum\nSimkins, T. and Garrick, R. (2012) Developing multi-agency teams: Implications of a national programme evaluation. <i>Management in Education</i>, 26, 1, 13-19\nTedam, P. (2012a) The MANDELA model of practice learning: An old present in new wrapping? <i>Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning</i>, 11, 2, 60-76\nTedam, P. (2012b) Using culturally relevant case studies to enhance students’ learning: A reflective analysis of the benefits and challenges for social work students and academics. <i>Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education</i>, 4, 1. http://journals.northampton.ac.uk/index.php/elehe/article/view/49 [Accessed on 12 May 2013]] <a target="_blank" href='http://journals.northampton.ac.uk/index.php/elehe/article/view/49'>http://journals.northampton.ac.uk/index.php/elehe/article/view/49</a>\nThe College of Social Work (2012) <i>The Professional Capabilities Framework</i>. <a target="_blank" href='http://www.tcsw.org.uk/pcf.aspx'>http://www.tcsw.org.uk/pcf.aspx</a>\nTisdell, E.J. and Tolliver, D.E. (2001) The role of spirituality in culturally relevant and transformative adult education. <i>Adult Learning</i>, 12, 3, 13-14\nTsui, M. (2005) <i>Social Work Supervision: Contexts and concepts</i>. Thousand Oaks, CA: University Press\nUhuegbu, I.W. (2006) <i>African Wisdom. A Collection of African Proverbs and their Interpretations</i>. Crewe: Trafford Publishing\nWalton, P. (2012) Beyond talk and text: An expressive visual arts method for social work education. <i>Social Work Education</i>, 31, 6, 724-741\nWhiting, B.J. (1932) <i>The Nature of the Proverb.</i> (Reprinted from Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature)<i></i>. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press\n




How to Cite

Tedam, P. (2013). What can social workers learn from African proverbs?. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 12(1), 6-21. https://doi.org/10.1921/jpts.v12i1.283