Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD[1] to The Star for its positive portrayal of a girl child breaking barriers.

Joburg teen becomes first blind pupil to participate in SA maths Olympiad” (The Star, 14/09/2020) by Khaya Koko describes how a tenacious 15-year-old girl, Joanne Futselaar has become the very first blind participant in the South African Maths Olympiad (samo). According to the article tht is uploaded to the IOL website, the grade nine learner at St Mary’s in Waverley, Johannesburg was “born with the genetic condition leber congenital amaurosis, which resulted in her retinas not developing properly”.

Joanne says in the article, “It is difficult for me to visualise diagrams because, even though they have Braille copy, it is still more difficult.”

Despite the odds being against her, Joanne made it to the second round of the Olympiad from 90, 000 pupils to 11, 000 of them.

Her mother is quoted in the article saying, “She has been brought up to cope in a sighted world. She is always keen to try new things such as paragliding, rock climbing, skateboarding and riding a bike.”

The Star has done a stellar job at not only reporting on a child living with a disability but also portraying her positively as one with agency. The fact that the child has also been interviewed and quoted in the article is commendable. MMA always encourages the media to report on all children, whether differently-abled or otherwise. This came after observing that children with special needs hardly made it in the news. It is important for journalists to also report on children with disabilities as they also deserve space in the media and attention to specific issues facing them. When these children are excelling at something, such as is the case with Joanne, the media is encouraged to highlight these too.

 MMA supports positive stories with children’s voices and this is a great example of an article that brings attention to an issue facing a child, positively portrays her and gives her a voice. Well done Khaya Koko and The Star!

By Bantse Pelle

[1] GLADs are awarded to media for reporting on children positively and for accessing them