It is exciting to read articles about children that access and celebrate them for their achievements. Such is the case with The Star’s article titled, “Gopolang turns tears to cheershttps” (06/03/2019, p.6) for which Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD.[1]

The article by Sakhile Ndlazi is about 17-year-old Gopolang Mogale from Pankop village in Mpumalanga who has endured tormenting because of her special needs. Gopolang is reported to have “an intellectual disability, a slight speech impediment and an attention disorder”. In the article, Gopolang is celebrated as a sportsperson who has been selected to participate at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The article also reports that the child has excelled in the district, provincial and national sports competitions. According to the article, Gopolang will compete in the 100m and 200m races at the Special Olympics.

Accompanying the article is a picture of a smiling Gopolang surrounded by her medals and trophies. This, together with how the child is portrayed in the article, encourages and motivates other children reading the article to see possibilities of success and accomplishments beyond the challenges of being special needs children.

Gopolang, whose dream is reportedly to become a professional athlete and buy her mother a house, is quoted saying, “I want to be like Caster [Semenya], in fact I want to be better than her.”

MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] encourage journalists to access children and allow them to participate in the news especially when the article is about their achievements or when it’s in their best interest to be accessed. The journalist, Sakhile Ndlazi not only accesses the child but also accesses her principal and mother.

It is important to access children for their views because their voices in stories about them matter. MMA believes that every child should be given a platform to speak and share their views on matters that concern them especially when this is in their best interests. Further, in stories about them, children are entitled to express how they feel about what is happening around them as this enriches stories with their perspectives.  

We congratulate The Star and Sakhile Ndlazi specifically for accessing the child and portraying her positively as an active sportsperson with agency. We look forward to many more stories that celebrate children’s achievements.

By Nomshado Lubisi & Baatile Mohale

[1] A GLAD is awarded when journalists report positively and responsively on children