Seeing stories about fencing involving children in townships is refreshing especially because the sport is unpopular compared to soccer. The article by Saturday Star titled, “From shy kid to ‘superhero’” (09/02/2019, p.10) by Sameer Naik has been selected as a GLAD by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) for its child-centred coverage.
The article is about 12-year-old Mpho Mahlala who stays in Orlando East, Soweto and is a promising fencer. She is reported to have started playing the sport at a tender age and got inspiration from Aphiwe Tuku who has represented South Africa in the sport. According to the article, Mpho has been excelling in the sport and recently won a gold medal in a junior sports championship title in Soweto. In addition, the article also reports that the child who has ambitions of playing at the Olympics, will also be competing at the Gauteng Provincial Fencing Open.
Throughout the article Mpho is accessed and quoted saying, “If I want to succeed and represent South Africa one day. I have to work very hard and be focused.”
This is an indication that Mpho is an ambitious and motivated child. In most coverage of sports involving children, journalists focus on coaches and other people developing and supporting the child, leaving out the star child. However, in this case the journalist goes against the norm and commendably takes a child-centred approach and makes sure the child’s voice is dominating throughout the article.
Mpho’s coach is accessed in the article saying, “Since she [Mpho] started fencing she has been bringing back something. Provincially she’s always in the top three, and now nationally she won gold, so she is certainly going places.”
Aside from portraying Mpho in a positive way, celebrating her achievement and accessing her extensively, the journalist also lets bright photographs of the child in action and posing accompany the article.
The journalist also gives the reader background information about the sport, which is reported to be originally from Europe. This makes this story very interesting and unique as this sport is not famous in townships or in “black communities”. By writing this article in this manner and portraying the child as one with agency, the journalist challenges the stereotype that children are inactive. MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media encourage journalists to always strive to challenge negative stereotypes about children and to celebrate their achievements. This is exactly what Sameer Naik did.
Further, this article and the manner in which it’s written empowers other girls in general to participate in fencing or any other sport and might encourage them to not limit their abilities but participate.
MMA would like to encourage Sameer Naik, Saturday Star and the media in general to continue reporting on children when they have achieved something or are performing excellently in what they doing. Well done Saturday Star and Sameer Naik!
By Msizi Mzolo
 A GLAD is awarded to journalists for portraying children positively, celebrating their achievements and for accessing them for their views.
In response to having her article selected as a GLAD , the journalist said, “Thanks so much. You have made my week.”