Media in Africa has always had a mix of pretty standard images, and the most common of these is the children waving at the camera, and running after the car where the camera is. I love media and entertainment, and I can name a whole lot of people who graced African TV when I was younger. I only became camera shy only as a young adult. As I spend more and more of my time out here, I take in all the images of Africa that the mainstream media and others as well, through blogs by people in Kenya and other Africans at home and in the rest of the world. There are still kids running after the camera, and I recognize the need that the children have to be placed in the map somewhere. I still want to be on TV, as most every African child does. Its fun. It is alluring, to know that you will not be one of who lived in obscurity.
Growing up in Kenya, there were a number of ways to get on TV, one was the birthday greetings message on the national broadcaster, one could be part of the Junior and Senior Quiz shows for school children, part of Debate and Poetry recital teams, be part of the annual International Children’s Day of Broadcasting( where children hosted an afternoon of shows on TV) or even have your school sports day covered in the Sports Round up when the news in sports had a few clips of air time to fill. More recently, however, there have been a number of opportunities to audition for children’s television programs on the cable channel provider DSTV and the PopStars/Idol genre of reality TV. I always thought I would be in front of a camera, and still ponder the irony that I have become a media watcher and budding critic like no other, and not really a presenter. It is so important to let kids dream, but that is another post altogether.
Here is a running interplay of how the child gets discovered. The child must find a student/aid worker/development worker with a camera and a cause. If the child is in an area where there is fresh conflict, even better, so that the story is hot enough to land a front page. If the child is striking, like the Afghani woman who was first photographed by NatGeo as a child, and later sought as an adult, then his or her face is guaranteed a place in history. If not, then the child better have a story that can tug at the hearts of the audience, and the more tragic, the better.
Every time a child features on a cover story, I know that the same script I have outlined above will prevail. Africa and its children will continue to be portrayed as victims of tragedy. No matter or mind the brilliant boy who went to a village high school and attained top marks in the national exam, or the girl whose Physics acumen has her already designing local village solutions, or the glass mosaic artist from the slum, who just turned eight. These stories never make it to the top, unless they are couched in familiar terms such as Civil War, tribal clashes, HIV/AIDS, malaria, death, done, finished. While there are legitimate reasons why Africa faces problems and stories have to be highlighted, this is one which strikes me as a re-run script. Where are the hopeful stories.
If you know of someone who deserves a special mention, kindly send me their story and I would be happy to feature them on this blog. Video clips are also welcome.