Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD[1] to Sowetanlive and Sowetan for accessing children who are also portrayed positively in two articles by Karabo Ledwaba. Further, the articles which are about children creating prototype robots, have been selected as GLADs because they highlight and celebrate children’s achievements.

The first article, “Pupils invent fire-fighting robot” (Sowetanlive, 25/10/2018) reports on two pupils, 16-year-old Trevor Simelane and 17-year-old Joseph Mdluli from Kanyamazane in Mpumalanga who won the HIP2B 3M Innovation Challenge with their fire-fighting robot. The article reports that the grades 9 and 10 pupils impressed the judges by being able to make their prototype with the “few tools and materials they had access to in their village”. Their creation was reportedly inspired by a fire that engulfed the Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg in which three firefighters died.

The children are quoted in this article and Trevor Simelane says, “We decided to tackle the problem of fires because it is one of the top three [problematic] issues in the country.”

Joseph Mdluli is quoted saying, “It [the robot] can also take the smoke from the fire and turn it into carbon dioxide to extinguish fires.”

The second article, “Young pupils show their innovation” (Sowetan, 19/11/2018, p.8) reports on six grade 9 pupils from Diepsloot, Johannesburg who created a robot meant to clean the streets in their neighbourhood. The children, Samantha Koata (15), Palesa Mogaoa (14), Mabusa Ramakgwakgwa (14), Kgothatso Maanaso (15), France Mpempe (15), Seleka Selamolela (15) and Gift Gafane (15) were reportedly “inspired by seeing streets filled with litter in their community. According to the article, the pupils created their robot after participating in a training program by i-Innovation.

The journalist also accesses one of the children in this story thereby giving them a chance to share their thoughts, feelings and dreams for the next future. In the article France Mpempe is quoted saying, “We saw a lot of dumping on the streets and kids would get hurt by glass and car tyres would get punctured … It took us four days to create the robot. We had to balance it to make sure it doesn’t collapse when it picks up the litter.”

The child is further quoted sharing the team’s ambition regarding their creation by saying, “I hope we are given an opportunity to take this to another level and make a better version of it.”

Both articles are accompanied by photographs of the children posing with their creations.

“Children’s achievements will also be given due recognition in the media,” advises MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media.[2] The journalist adhered to these Guidelines by positively portraying the children in the stories.

Accessing them promotes the children’s right to freedom of speech which is supported by Articles 12 and 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)[3] ratified by South Africa in 1995.

MMA believes that showing support and interest in what children are doing and, reporting on them can help to build a better society by encouraging children to continue working hard. This will also empower other children not reported on to draw inspiration from those in the stories.

MMA encourages Sowetan and Sowetanlive to continue providing children with platforms to express themselves and to continue celebrating children’s achievements.

We implore on the media to keep providing readers with such positive coverage of children.

By Jacques Ndong and Baatile Mohale


[1]A GLAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted