I just read an article from CNN that made me interested in the World Cup for the first time in the past few weeks. As a failed athlete, I have a hard time dredging up interest in any topic that involves athletic ability, but this article about a program that combines soccer with journalism training in the midst of the World Cup caught my eye.
The Siyakhona project uses soccer as something of a catalyst to teach journalism skills to adolescents and young adults in South Africa. Between bouts of kicking muddy balls around, the program participants are taught the basics of seeking out sources, interviewing, compiling stories and photography, and are provided with the technology to carry out their newfound skills. Although the program is taking place during a time when soccer is very much in the international spotlight, its directors hope to extend its scope beyond the World Cup’s schedule.
This fairly recent program is associated with Football for Hope, a movement that, also using soccer, promotes various types of social impact and development. I believe that in taking on the challenge of bringing journalism’s impact to these small townships, Football for Hope and the founders of the Siyakhona project are promoting a cause that is not only noble, but necessary. The fact that the people leading this project are using soccer (a necessary evil) to interest disadvantaged South African adolescents in journalism is nothing short of completely and thoroughly cool.
CNN’s article introduces Azola Maliti, just one of the many participants benefiting from this initiative. Maliti’s passion is photography, and he’ll be able to document a World Cup match alongside professional photographers. The enthusiasm is contagious, according to Danny Lurie of Hillside Digital, a nonprofit media organization assisting with the project:
[Maliti] is so excited. If you talk to the participants, you would see it in their eyes. Their passion is unbelievable.
One goal of the Siyakhona project is to create a way for the residents of these townships — the program currently reaches out to adolescents in Khayelitsha and Alexandra and its directors plan to extend to almost 20 more — to tell their stories themselves, rather than relying on outside sources and media. Those teaching journalism skills to these South African adolescents want them to be able to tell, from an inside perspective, about the poverty and crime they experience. However, the aspirations of the participants go beyond that. Amidst the poverty and crime are talented artists, musicians and innovators, and they want the chance to share that talent with the world as well.
Despite my partiality to print media, I can’t refute the great point made in the article. This program’s emphasis on video, photography and social media allows people who aren’t literate to still share stories and spread news. The Siyakhona project makes journalists out of people who normally might never have been given the chance, Lurie said:
The great thing about film is that you don’t need to be literate. Quite a few of the participants are living with AIDS and one [program] participant is an orphan. These participants come from the poorest areas and have really taken to the program very strongly.
During a time in which citizen journalism is growing by leaps and bounds, the Siyakhona project has the right idea in bringing the necessary skills and technology to those who have some of the most powerful stories to tell.