E.tv’s investigative journalism programme, 3rd Degree aired an episode titled “Ontlametse: a Gift” (21/03/2012) which documented the life story of Ontlametse Phalatse, a 12-year-old girl who lives with a rare fatal genetic disease called Progeria. The show is lauded for its brilliant depiction of how children, regardless of their creed, background, or health should be given a voice, portrayed positively, and not be stereotyped or stigmatised.
Showing her at her new school, how the other children have welcomed her and how she continues to cope with the disease, 3rd Degree took its viewers on a journey of a young girl who is affected by a disease that ages the body five times than normal and a disease whose victims do not get to live beyond the age of 13.
The programme’s remarkable child-centred angle is also worth commending. The focus was on the challenges that Ontlametse has faced and how she overcame them; what she can do and not on what she is incapable of doing.
The story was covered in an all encompassing manner, which gave background on the disease and in so doing eliminated all stigmas that might be attached to it or the people living with it.
Ontlametse, was given a voice on several occasions, she was also given an opportunity to interview and be interviewed by the show’s host, Debora Patta at the 3rd Degree television studios. At some point, Ontlametse was accessed saying she dreams of being a psychologist in order “to help other children and other people who cannot accept themselves. If you cannot accept who you are, you are not going to live a good life.” Such words spoken by a girl her age not only debunk the myths and stereotypes often associated with children but also show that children’s views are worth listening to.
Frequently, Ontlametse was portrayed positively not only by the show’s host but by other people who are close to her who described her as amazing and positive amongst other things.
An insightful story such as the one reported by 3rd Degree should serve as a benchmark to other media houses when it comes to reporting on children and children’s issues.