The story “Beat First Day Trauma” by Omphitlhetse Mooki (The Star, 17/01/12, p.7) which looks at ‘problems and solutions’ associated with the stress of starting a new school, varsity or job, makes Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) GLAD1. It does so because it connects the dots on the broader issue of education and puts the entirety of the matter into the right perspective.

MMA has observed that ‘back to school’ stories at the beginning of each new year, are generally mostly about young children going to school for the first time and either joyful or in a state of trauma. This article is somewhat different and paints a far more holistic picture of education and starting school.

MMA is also very aware of the issues facing the South African education system, and the massive failings of it in early childhood development which ultimately puts most young learners on the back foot which will prevent them from gaining the most from their entire education journey.

Failings in the education system will have multiple effects in the future, ultimately hindering the country’s future development, which most children of today will inherit.

Education of children and young people should be a priority in South Africa to ensure continual development and growth, as young people then step into adulthood and the working force. Without proper foundations and lifelong learning, the chances are increasingly slim for students to leave tertiary education institutions with the right qualifications and skills to enable them to be passionate, resourced and equipped members of the South African workforce.

This is the context that the discussion around education needs to be found in. With so many of our politicians talking about the need to address education in South Africa, what this article does is help to focus that need, where perhaps the bigger picture is often forgotten.

The piece, as a whole, includes five examples of children at various stages in their education, from pre-school, primary school, high school, to young adults at university and finally entering the workforce.

Each one of the items is a brief feature of a child (or young adult) and their parent, both commenting on their next steps on the journey of education they are starting, continuing, or ending. The children and young adults are accessed directly, in this way their voices are heard. Hearing a young boy about to go to ‘big school’ for the first time say “We’ll be learning… how to write and to read.”  And then a young woman starting her first job after finishing tertiary education saying “When you come from varsity you learn from a textbook but here you learn the practical…” the concept of education and where it’s meant to take children comes into focus.

For anyone reading this article, the fullness of what education means, or should and must mean, cannot be missed, and this is what makes MMA very GLAD. We hope to find more insightful reporting on education like this from The Star in the future.

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”