The Times is displaying great innovation in providing a conduit for schools and pupils to share their positive experiences. In the series of “My School Project” articles (2007?), The Times regularly gives schools, education programmes and pupils the opportunity to share their stories, highlighting the achievements of young people and their capacity to excel and effect positive change. The Times should be commended for taking this approach.
Young people are so often portrayed in the media as voiceless victims or perpetrators of crime, or simply as nameless recipients of education and other public services. The Times “My School Project” series offers a different and more responsible approach.
The subject matter of the articles in this series has ranged from student and teacher-led conflict resolution initiatives, to student-run fundraising and financial aid projects, to highlighting learning excellence.
The focus of these articles shows the public that many young South Africans are excelling at schools and in communities, and that they too can be active and responsible citizens.
In featuring children’s stories in this way, and providing positive role models, young people are encouraged to see how they too may excel or contribute to their communities.
The series also serves to foster a positive perspective of young people amongst the public, including young people themselves.
Not only are the articles positive stories, but they also always include students as sources. This shows respect for young people’s ability and right to comment on matters directly involving them.
The series provides an excellent example to other journalists reporting on stories involving young people of innovation in reporting on children and how to report well on children’s issues.
Other media should consider these articles as a challenge to how best they may contribute to a more positive portrayal of South Africa’s children, rather than focusing on negative stereotypes and role models.