Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards The New Age and TimesLive a GLAD[1]for positively reporting on children and highlighting their achievements.

The first article, “BSc Physics Student at 14” by Lillian Selapisa, (The New Age, 03/02/2017, p.1) is about 14-year-old Hjalmar Rall who is set to start his undergraduate studies at the University of Pretoria. Hjalmar’s story also appears on the TimesLive website and is told by journalist Petru Saal under the headline “University at 14: Meet the boy wonder who’s reaching for the stars” (02/02/2017).

Hjalmar is quoted in The New Age saying, “I am very excited, it has been my dream to study physics and I cannot wait to start. I am not really worried about anything…”. Timeslive also made an effort to give a voice to the youngster who was quoted saying, “I want to ask even bigger questions and find out what else there is to do, particularly in theoretical physics and astrophysics”.

MMA commends both newspapers for making a deliberate attempt to portray the child as a determined individual and for celebrating his achievements.

In another article by The New Age (also by Lillian Selapisa) headlined “Varsity whiz kid, 16, ready to soar” (10/02/2017, p.3) the newspaper focused on another child,  a 16-year-old girl by the name of Nothando Ngobeni from Daveyton. Nothando is also set to start her first year at Tshwane University of Technology and was named as well as accessed in the article for her views. “I never received any special treatment from my teachers. I worked really hard, listened carefully, and attended extra classes even on Saturdays and Sundays,” she was quoted saying.

Assigning positive roles to children and portraying them as young achievers, as in this instance for example, empowers and encourages them to continue performing well. It also challenges stereotypes that children can only be victims, powerless etc in media coverage of them.

MMA therefore congratulates both newspapers for their coverage of Hjalmar and Nothando, particularly The New Age for publishing positive stories that celebrate children’s achievements in two consecutive weeks. This shows an understanding of the need to respect children’s right to freedom of speech.
We encourage both media to publish more of these stories.

By Girlie Sibanda

[1] GLADs refer to articles where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted

 *The New Age responded to the commentary. Below is the publication’s response;

Thanks for recognising The New Age‘s coverage of the vulnerable member of society particularly children. As a newspaper we are extremely sensitive to how report and carry stories on children. I am (News Editor) humbled that MMA has recognised Lillian’s good work and also the papers efforts in protecting and celebrating South African children.