Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is elated to award a GLAD[1] to the Mail and Guardian newspaper for an article about an Eastern Cape pupil who recently had to migrate to the Western Cape for education as there are better socio-economic prospects in the latter province. The GLAD is awarded because Mail and Guardian profiled this child whose identity is withheld while shining the light on an issue facing many learners in South Africa, an issue that rarely features in media coverage of children.

 “Migration of learners a headache” (Mail and Guardian, 11/06/2021, p.7) by Bongekile Macupe details the life of Isiphile Mvana (not real name), a 17-year-old pupil from Ngqamakhwe in the Eastern Cape who had to leave the Eastern Cape province for the Western Cape. The child is reported to be one in a thousand of school-going children who leave the province either for the Western Cape or Gauteng to better their chances of better schooling and employment opportunities.

The article reports that “in the last six years the two provinces [Western Cape and Gauteng] have seen more than 800 000 learners coming to their schools from other provinces”.

Speaking to the publication on behalf of the child, Cebisa Mvana (not her real name), the aunt to the child profiled explained that it was really hard on Isiphile and that her teachers were saying that she was not receiving proper care as she was living alone in Ngqamakhwe before leaving for the Western Cape.

“I was advised by one parent to write a letter to the principal of her child’s school and explain my situation. That principal was kind enough — even though the school was full, she allowed for my niece to study there,” she said.

As a key component of reporting on children, the journalist did well to conceal the identities of both the child and her aunt and to instead employ pseudonyms to refer to them in the story to avoid identification. This is done to respect and protect the dignity of the child in question. This is important and is in-line with MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] where the first principle states, “Even where you are trying to tell people about harm to children or another children’s issue or promote children’s rights, you always need to respect the best interests of the individual child.”

The guidelines go on to implore media practitioners to “always respect children’s dignity and well-being” when reporting on children among other important considerations to be taken into account.

As such, it is for these reasons that MMA awards a GLAD to the Mail and Guardian and to the journalist, Bongekile Macupe for a job well done. We encourage this kind of responsible journalism and look forward to reading more articles that put first the interest of the child.

By Azola Dayile

[1] GLAD’s are awarded to media for reporting on children responsibly and for accessing them