Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives the Sowetan a GLAD1 for displaying good journalistic practice on their articles “Kids risk being bitten by snakes at school” (31/01/2014, p.12) and “No water to drink” (31/01/2014, p.13) written by Sibongile Mashaba.

The stories are about pupils at a school in Mpumalanga who are being forced to learn under trees after a storm damaged their classrooms and who do not have water to drink after the water tank was damaged in a storm. The well researched articles also highlight the challenges and dangers that both the teachers and the children are facing as a result of these problems.

The Sowetan and in particular Sibongile Mashaba should be commended for her effort in thoroughly highlighting the challenges the Mpumalanga education system faces and its failure to “fulfil its promise to deliver mobile classrooms to the school”. This story is symptomatic of the many problems that mar the education system in South Africa and demonstrates that the country still has a lot to do in trying to address these challenges.

Furthermore, Sibongile Mashaba should also be applauded for accessing relevant sources in the articles. Among the multiple sources used were teachers, school principal, education spokesman, the school’s governing body secretary, and a parent. Crucially, the journalist also sourced one of the pupils.

The use of pupils as sources is very important as they are ones most affected by these problems and are eligible to provide a firsthand account on the situation. The right for children to participate in stories and issues that affect their lives is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child2 – but all too often their involvement is limited or non-existent.

MMA encourages the Sowetan to continue highlighting the challenges that beset the educational system and to maintain their practice of ensuring balanced coverage and a diversity of sources. We look forward to more reports from the Sowetan that centre around critical issues that affect children and reports that seek children’s opinions , especially when it is in their best interests to do so.

1. On a weekly basis, MMA highlights cases of good practice, where the media has promoted the rights and welfare of children, otherwise referred to as “GLADs”, as well as instances where the rights and welfare of children have been compromised through irresponsible media coverage, referred to as “MADs
2.Section 12 of the United Nations Conventions On the Rights of a Child says that children have the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them.