The City Press article “Learning in Peace” (City Press, 08/08/2010, p. 14) gets a Glad for its focus on a school that has successfully integrated foreign and local children, and for interviewing three pupils who are attending the school. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) strongly encourages journalists to access children and give them a voice when writing about them or topics relevant to children and where it is in their best interests to do so.
Recent media coverage, especially after the World Cup, has focused a lot on the threat of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. In light of this, the article is timely and important. It features Clareville Primary in Clare Estate, Durban which accepts foreign pupils into the school where they study alongside local pupils in an environment that promotes understanding between children of different race. Among a total of 735 children in the school, 348 are from sub-Saharan African countries, including DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Angola and Zimbabwe. According to the article the school also charges a very low annual fee making it possible for children from low income families to attend the school.
The journalist interviewed three children from the school. A 13 year old girl from Burundi was quoted saying she was accepted by her fellow local pupils because there was no xenophobic sentiment between foreigners and locals at the school. Another pupil, a 15 year old girl from DRC said she is happy at the school, but outside of school grounds she is aware of the “suspicion and hatred” that foreigners experience.
A local boy from grade 7 at the school said his attitude to foreigners has changed since having the opportunity to study alongside them. He also said some pupils from the school used to call foreign pupils names, but that doesn’t happen anymore since the teachers encourage all pupils not to discriminate against each other. The article also cites teachers praising the foreign pupils as hard-working learners who are “willing to learn very fast.”
MMA congratulates City Press for doing a remarkable job of not only sourcing children in the story and giving them a voice, but also of making sure the children interviewed were both foreign and local, providing a dialogue between two sides often represented in the media as hostile. The article also challenged xenophobic sentiments by highlighting the children’s ability to integrate with local children, and their willingness to work hard and learn.