Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD to Sowetan for positively reporting on children, highlighting their achievements and accessing them in four articles published in the same week in October.
The first article, “Alex girl dreams of producing robot cook” (23/10/2017, p.2) by Bafana Nzimande reports on a Grade 10 pupil, Tshegofatso Mampuru, from Alexandra High School who built a “sensor-driven robot” with three of her schoolmates. The article reports that the girls took part in a robotics competition where they entered their invention. Even though they did not win the competition, the article reports that Tshegofatso was motivated by it. She is quoted saying, “I want to build a robot that can prepare meals and assist with cleaning the house. This will give people more time to relax and do other things. I have started my research and I am confident that one day my dream will become a reality.”
Another article headlined, “Hardship fails to put a damper” (23/10/2017, p.8) written by Yoliswa Sobuwa, reports on 17-year-old Themba Khosa who has had to put his dream of becoming a lawyer on hold as he cannot afford to pay for tuition. Themba is reported to have instead applied to a college where he will study teaching in the hope that he will “get aid from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme”. Despite the fact that the article reports on his difficult living conditions and financial constraints, Themba is portrayed as someone who is focused on getting an education. The matric pupil, who lives with his brother in a shack in Protea South is quoted saying, “Education is the only thing that will take us out of this situation.”
“Vuwani matric pupils optimistic” (27/10/2017, p.8) by Zoe Mahopo tells the story of matric pupils in Vuwani, Limpopo preparing for their exams after their schooling was affected by a shutdown caused by protesting residents who were rejecting their inclusion into a new municipality. Seventeen-year-old Vusani Makgoka, who was part of a group of pupils taking part in “study catchups”, said she was relieved that examinations were resuming. “I was afraid that I would have to repeat another year in Grade 12. I used to try and study at home when the shutdown started but it was hard,” she is quoted saying, Vusani is reportedly also hoping to study IT at university.
All the articles above were accompanied by photographs of the children in the stories portraying them in a positive light. MMA commends Sowetan for also ensuring that in all these articles, the children had an opportunity to tell their stories. Accessing children promotes children’s right to freedom of speech as enshrined in Articles 12 and 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC), which South Africa ratified in 1995. Furthermore, MMA congratulates Sowetan for highlighting the spirit of the children in these stories to succeed in some of those difficult circumstances that were highlighted as well as their successes.
The last article, “Father angry at pupil’s suspension” (27/10/2017, p.11) by Yoliswa Sobuwa, is about a father who accused authorities of “depriving his son the right to education.” This is after his 10-year-old son was reportedly suspended from school after allegedly being disruptive in class. In a clear effort to protect the child from potential victimisation, Sowetan chose to hide the identity of the child even stating that the child could not be named and that the father “[also] cannot be identified to protect the identity of the child”. A photograph accompanying the article is also shown in a way that the child and his father cannot be identified, with their backs to the camera – a clear effort to further conceal their identities. We note Sowetan’s efforts as acting in the best interest of the child and as an example of minimising potential harm toward the child.
MMA commends Sowetan for its great reporting where children’s rights to expression and where necessary, privacy have been respected and promoted. We implore on the publication to continue with such coverage.
By Musa Rikhotso
 A GLAD refers to articles where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted.