Resources - Get Mad/Glad

Empowering images of children take centre stage

4 May 2016

All too often, children’s stories in the media tend to focus on instances of trauma, abuse and neglect1and we, at Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), sometimes struggle to find stories in which children are portrayed as anything other than victims of their circumstances. This week, however, MMA came across two sterling stories that portray children in a non-stereotypical manner and clearly make an effort to celebrate their successes.

The first article, “Pupils jet off to Singapore!” (15/04/2016, p. 20) published by the Daily Sun reports on three teenagers from Mpumalanga who have been selected to participate in Yale Young Global Scholars, a global leadership programme which will see them travel to a conference in Singapore in May 2016. The second article, “Pupils come second in aqua event”(11/04/2016, p. 9), written by Nomusa Mvubu from The New Age reports on a group of six Northern Cape high school students who came second in a national science competition.

Both of these articles honour the achievements of these groups of pupils. In both cases, the children are depicted as hard-working, motivated and capable agents of change who have actively engaged in their own education and are building into their future careers. In the first article, the teenagers were described by a source as being “extraordinary teenagers”, while in the second each of the teenagers described their future career aspirations. These positive representations were also boosted by the accompanying photographs in which the teenagers are all seen smiling, happy and excited.

The stories also access the children’s voices directly and provide opportunities for these teens to share their own ideas, feelings and experiences with the reader. In the first article, we hear from two of the three children as they describe their optimism for the future, their passion for education and their interests in issues outside of their immediate spaces. One of them was quoted saying, “I feel that I can achieve anything through working hard and having a sincere interest.”.

In the second story from The New Age, each of the six competition finalists are quoted and their insights into the importance of science and how they are making their future career choices are revealed. In this way, these reports help to reposition these children not simply as passive objects but rather as active agents of their own futures.

We would like to commend both the Daily Sun and The New Age for providing such insightful and encouraging accounts of some of our South African youth and we look forward to seeing more of these uplifting narratives in the future.

By Sarah Findlay

1. See Media Monitoring Africa’s latest findings on how children are portrayed in the media: http://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/images/uploads/ChildrensReport2015-2.pdf

In response to the commentary, the journalist from The New Age, Nomusa Mvubu said:

“I’m actually surprised that an organisation as big as yours read my article, let alone, found it inspiring.
I have always been passionate about community journalism and the stories about ordinary people leading normal lives.
I also enjoy capturing the heart of a story and recognising the efforts of those who want to make a difference in their lives.
In the Northern Cape, there aren’t as many opportunities but there are beams of lights that keep shining through, children who show that despite their circumstances, there is still light ahead.
I am happy and humbled by this honour. Thank you for recognising the story and giving it the greenlight.”