The Times’ article “School’s out for these children” (25/09/09, p. 4) by Sipho Masondo, photographs by Daniel Born, is one to be glad of. It brings attention to the conditions in rural schools, including teachers’ absence from school and teacher shortage. It also included a child’s perspective.

The article showed how children in rural schools are affected by the shortage of teachers and teachers’ absence from school, mentioning that some of the children in the rural schools are unable to read or write.

It showed the impact on children, by accessing a parent and a child affected.

For example, one parent was quoted as saying, “Our children are not educated at all, they don’t know English. They can’t write. I get letters from the post office and when I ask her to read for me she can’t”.

The article stated that one of the children “loved school and wanted to amount to something but was helpless if she went to school but her teachers did not”.

This gave the child a voice to express her aspirations, and showed how she was not given the chance to fulfill them. The article also gave children a voice by including photographs of their drawings.

The pictures by Daniel Born are commendable.  One photograph showed the children in an empty classroom, in front of an empty black board, which showed that children wanted to learn, but were not being taught. It protected their identities, which was in the best interest of the children.

The pictures of the children’s drawings were used to show how there were no smiling faces in the classroom.

This article was one to be glad of but could have been improved by protecting the identity of the 13-year old who spoke in the article. Identification might expose her to victimisation, for example, from teachers about speaking to the press. A pseudonym could have been used instead.

The reporter could also have investigated more what the underlying reasons may be for the shortage and absence of teachers in rural schools, such as lack of funding, transport problems and difficulty recruiting, as well as who was responsible, the Department of Education or schools themselves.

The denial of children’s right to education is important to investigate, and Media Monitoring Africa looks forward to more investigative journalism which addresses this issue.

Response from Daniel Born:

Thank you so much! It’s great to see an organisation out there improving the quality of journalism in South Africa and I’m thrilled that our story was nominated.