The article “Pupils take sides in aftermath of tragic KES stabbing”, by Angelique Serrao and Alex Eliseev in The Star (20/09/07, p.3) is one to be glad about because it focuses on the much publicized issue of violence in schools and opens it up to wider discussion.
The issue of school violence in South African schools is making headlines again. This issue is not a new issue. It was an issue that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) even held public hearings about in the wake of a recent spate of incidents of violence in schools. (Visit HRC website for summary and specific dates).
The core of the article, “Pupils take sides in aftermath of tragic KES stabbing”, is about the extent to which the level of violence in schools has spilt into open public spaces such as bus terminals, houses, and communities in general. The reporters points out that the situation is characterised by intense rivalry and tension between the various schools. The article reports on how the school incidence around the death of Mfundo Ntshangase amongst its consequences has spurred different stakeholders into action regarding school violence. These stakeholders have been moved to develop responses to these violent related issues. By virtue of this development therefore this article becomes important as it generates further debate by the public around these issues.
Besides the importance of the story being told, there are aspects on the quality of the reporting by the journalists that have to be commended. The reporters have interviewed different sources for this story and thus have allowed a multiplicity of perspectives to emerge. To the credit of the reporters, amongst those interviewed are school pupils who are directly affected by violence in their own schools. This inclusion is important because it affords the learners an opportunity to give their own experiences around how they have been personally affected by violence and its impact on their sense of safety and security in schools, a right guaranteed by the Constitution of South Africa.
Another positive aspect of the article is the type of image that has been selected for this article. The picture is that of children who are wearing school uniform, standing next to a bottle store in the CBD Johannesburg and one of them is smoking a cigarette. On the one hand, while the visibility of the school uniform allows the school where the learners are from to be identified, which is not so good, the journalist has blurred the faces of the learners, so that their faces are not identifiable. Although the reporters introduce the issue of alcohol abuse by pupils, dressed in school uniform and during school days, one is not clear as to the significance of this point. The reporters do not explicitly show how this is linked to the school violence, which would need to be further explored. Despite this aspect being under-explored, however, it does offer an opportunity for a follow- up story around some of the possible causes of violence.
Overall, the story opens up and creates many opportunities for follow-ups, and further discussions around issues related to violence in schools, which is positive, and one hopes that the journalist will pursue these, even if it is just some of them.