Weekend Argus gives voice to differently abled children

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is delighted to award a GLAD[1] to Weekend Argus for exemplary reporting on children’s issues and for accessing a child as a source of information.

The article titled, “Pupils at special-needs school need a push towards optimism” (03/09/2022) and written by Nomzamo Yuku is a report on a special-needs school in Montana, Pretoria that seeks assistance in creating a comfortable learning and living environment for the physically and mentally challenged children at the school.

According to the article, the staff at Astra Special School, led by its founder Greg Bertish, are hard at work trying to secure funding to complete the renovation of the hostel and bathroom facilities by next month. Of the 160 pupils currently enrolled at the school between the ages of five and 18 years, the facilities cater to just over 40 of those learners.  

As part of their reportage, the journalist takes care to access and include the views and opinion of one of the learners at the school, a journalistic practice that is worth commending. The grade four pupil, Angelo Lakey is quoted in the article speaking on how their principal inspires him and the other learners. Lakey says, “Mr Greg Bertish told us his story that made me decide not to stop feeling sorry for myself because I’m in a wheelchair. I could not believe I could sail on my own. I enjoyed every moment.”

Lakey is further quoted in the article sharing his experience at the school and why they need renovations, saying, “Our rooms need painting, toilet seats, the taps, the doors are broken. Our rooms do not feel like home. It feels cold and sometimes it makes me feel more ill when I am not feeling well. Our staff is doing a lot to make us feel at home, but we need the people’s support to assist our principal.”

Accessing a child with special needs and portraying them as a child with agency is in accordance with universal ethics on reporting on children, and specifically the Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[2] developed by MMA, which encourage journalists to “challenge negative stereotypes about children and conventional roles children occupy in the media (eg helpless victims) whenever you can.” The Guidelines go on to say that children have a right to have their views heard on matters that affect them, so the media should try and include them.

As such, MMA commends the journalist for keeping to journalistic best practice and gladly awards them the GLAD, especially taking into consideration the marginalisation of children’s voices in the media, more so those who are differently abled. We hope to see a continuation of this kind of reporting.

Written by Azola Dayile

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

[2] https://mma-ecm.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/mma_editorial_guideline.pdf