The African Eye News Service (AENS) article by Thabisile Khoza and Tshwarelo Mogakane, “School kids riot over Cup stadium” (City Press, 28/09/08, p. 8 ), about the arrest of school pupils who allegedly set alight temporary school facilities in protest against having to leave their own school is one to be glad of. The article relates how school pupils stood up for their right to education and is to be commended for accessing pupils for their views; protecting the identities of the accused, and revealing the rationale for the children’s behaviour.
A summary of the same story by AENS was published in Daily Sun (“Kids go to court on arson charges”, 30/09/08, p. 8).
Gladly, both versions of the story protected the identities of the children who had been arrested. This is in line with the Criminal Procedure Act section 154 (3) which states: “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals or may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 or of a witness at criminal proceeding who is under the age of 18 years” .
Most significantly, in the City Press version, the child learners who were not arrested were accessed for their views and directly quoted. Their quoted views were given significant space in the article. This is to be commended for a number of reasons.
The children accessed speak of the impact of having to use temporary buildings on their health and education, including disruption, lack of concentration, and collapsing from the heat.
Accessing children for their views and opinions on decisions that affect them facilitates their right to express opinions on matters affecting them (Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).
It is an acknowledgement that children are not passive recipients but rather active participants in matters that concern them.
It provides a rationale to the children’s behaviour, in contrast to media coverage of protests, where the reason behind the protest is not looked at and the focus is on the violent actions of those involved.
It also shows how children themselves can recognise and advocate for the fulfillment of their rights.
By drawing attention to the violation of children’s rights to education, and the role and responsibilities of government, the publication of the story holds the government to account for violating children’s right to education.
While it is commendable for Thabisile Khoza and Tshwarelo Mogakane to have accessed children on their views, it is unfortunate that the names of these children have been included. As the three pupils were not arrested, the Criminal Procedure Act would not clearly apply in this case.
However, the best interests of the child, and other ethical considerations, remain paramount. Identifying the children could get them into trouble with the school principle or the education department for speaking to the media about the state of their education. The children’s interests would best be served either by not naming them or at least using pseudo names.
1. Click on the name of the article to see a PDF version of the article. MMP has concealed the names of the children to protect their identities.
2. See article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. (entered into force 1990). Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Geneva, Switzerland.
3. See UNICEF and Media Monitoring Project. 2003. All sides of the story. Reporting on children: A journalist’s handbook, p. 58, for an explanation of the Criminal Procedure Act.