Resources - Get Mad/Glad

South African children: their lives told by City Press

26 April 2017

This week, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD1  to City Press for their story entitled “The lot of our children” (19/03/2017, p.8) by Msindisi Fengu in which they provide a full-page report on how South African children spend their time.

Fengu’s article covers the release of the “Survey of Activities of Young People” as announced by the Statistician-General, Pali Lehohla. The story unpacks some of the statistical details of the survey and specifically highlights the sheer volume of children who are engaged in some form of labour activity, often at the expense of school attendance. Importantly, too, the story shares the experiences of a 17-year-old who assists at his father’s stall.

The story was selected as a GLAD as it provides an encouraging in-depth analysis of South African children and provides insight into some of their everyday lived experiences. It draws attention to the complex network of factors, including family living arrangements, that impact on children and their ability to fully engage at school. In this way, the story not only contextualizes such a complicated issue, but it also highlights for policymakers’ potential opportunities for change.

Although the story is based primarily on the results of the Statistics South Africa survey, we get a glimpse into the life of one child, Salim, who is directly accessed and is allowed to share his dreams, his choices and the family circumstances that have led to him working daily in the family business. Importantly, his story is told in an unpretentious and realistic way, and this contrasts the often patronizing manner in which children’s views are represented in the media.2  We also appreciate the fact that the child’s real identity is withheld with the use of a pseudonym, given the sensitivities surrounding his story. 

Furthermore, the story’s allocation of a full page feature in a national weekly newspaper also speaks to the prominence it was given. Where so often children’s voices, stories and concerns remain side-lined by media, it is refreshing to see City Press shine the spotlight on children and give standing to issues that concern and affect them. 

Time and again, evidence shows that the South African media fail to adequately cover stories about children and the issues that affect them.3  With children making up 40%4  of our population, MMA has long advocated for increased, comprehensive and ethical coverage of child-related stories. This article by City Press is an example of such reporting.

We applaud City Press for this story and we look forward to seeing many more in-depth child-related stories in the future!

By Sarah Findlay

1.A GLAD is given to an article where a journalist covers stories about children or reports on children’s issues in a positive and/or responsible way
4.South Africa Census 2011

The following is City Press’ response to the commentary;

Thanks for selecting a City Press article.