Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) would like to commend Sunday Times for their story “Pupils battling with basics granted a learning lifeline” (16/08/2015, p.11). The story by Prega Govender is about four pupils with mild intellectual disabilities who through specialised support and interventions have improved their chances of academic success.

The article further mentions that “tens of thousands of children across the country afflicted with the same condition could also benefit if a proposal by the Department of Basic Education to convert hundreds of ordinary schools into full-service ones is given the green light.” Media can play an important role in ensuring that the society is informed and made aware of the challenges as well as the developments affecting the most vulnerable in our society. Sunday Times has achieved that through this article.

Not only does this story contribute to mainstreaming issues of children with disabilities, it shows how the rights of these children can be realised. It is encouraging and promotes the view that children with disabilities through adequate support can be integrated into mainstream schools.

It is commendable that the journalist has taken a different stance by looking at the measures that have been put in place to help children with disabilities as opposed to promoting stereotypical and sensationalised frames common in these kinds of stories.1

Media monitors2 from Parkhurst Primary who analysed the story felt that while the article was well written however it missed the opportunity to get the children’s opinions:

“Well done but next time you write a story about kids add more comments on what children had to say, ask the children their opinions” –Bheki Zonele, Kamva Mgudlwa and Reneilwe Peterson

MMA strongly advocates for the inclusion of children’s voices in positive media stories about them hence we would like to urge Sunday Times to ensure that children’s voices are included in their reporting as they are missing from this article.

The same could be said for yet another brilliant article by the same journalist. The article titled “Home’s where the class is for many” (30/08/2015, p.4) was well written and brought to light an interesting child-centred issue. It looked at families that have taken up homeschooling as an alternative method of educating their children. However, like the previously mentioned article, missed the opportunity to talk to the children involved.

Interviewing children would have allowed them to tell the story from their own perspective and would have given insight on how these interventions have impacted them.

There is no doubt that Prega Govender did an outstanding job of putting children’s issues on the agenda and providing a solution-oriented angle to the two stories. What MMA would like to see from her going forward is the inclusion of the voices of children in her future stories, especially when it is their best interests.

By Musa Rikhotso

1. See “Reporting on disabilities: Too little, too limited”
2. As part of its Empowering Children and the Media Strategy, Parkhurst Primary school participates in MMA’s Make Abuse Disappear Online Accountability Tool (MAD OAT) where learners aged between 12 and 14 are taught media literacy and media monitoring skills

In response to the commentary, Sunday Times‘ journalist, Prega Govender said:

“Thank you very much. I am really honoured that the article has been selected for a GLAD.”