|© UNICEF Liberia/2005/Slavin|
|UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney with reporters from Star Radio.|
By Patrick Slavin
MONROVIA, Liberia, 20 September 2005 – An unusual group of young Liberian journalists is landing more and more major news scoops, such as an exclusive interview with the Liberian Head of State, the Minister of Defence, or UNICEF Liberia Representative Angela Kearney.
What is so unusual about these journalists? The average age of Star Radio’s four Kids Talk reporters is just twelve years old.
Preparation, hard work, practicing the highest professional journalistic standards, and making sure they make it school on time are the secrets to their success.
Kids Talk first hit Liberia’s airways in July, and their 27-minute broadcasts are now heard four times a week on Star Radio, one of this west African nation’s leading radio stations. Star Radio can be picked up across Liberia on the shortwave band.
“I like hearing my voice on the radio and love it when I get praise for Kids Talk,” said correspondent George Toby, 12, who has to constrain his infectious smile when he turns his microphone toward one of the show’s VIP guests.
But his smile doesn’t stop him from asking tough questions: After the Kids Talk team was escorted into Liberia’s Executive Mansion, George asked Chairman Gyude Bryant, “Why do people boo you?” Gyude answered with a joke and a laugh.
|© UNICEF Liberia/2005/Slavin|
|A member of the Star Radio team.|
Annette Ciapha, 12, Samuelle Hare, 11, and Joseph Johnson, 12, are the other Kids Talk correspondents.
Star Radio Senior Producer Olive Thomass shepherded the project from the initial concept to the first broadcast, and continues to work closely with the eager young journalists.
“The reporters also want to broadcast on public health issues, like cholera, which is endemic in Liberia,” said Thomass. “It’s not only great fun when kids talk to other kids – it’s also extremely educational to our listeners.”
The children have bright hopes for their country.
“I want Liberia to be developed,” said Joseph, “and I want education to be free.”
When UNICEF’s Kearney was interviewed she used the opportunity to speak directly to Liberian children associated with fighting forces (CAFF).
“Two years ago there were thousands of Liberian children associated with fighting forces who were in the bush…and now they’re in school or getting skills training. But there are some CAFF who UNICEF and its partners haven’t reached yet. And if they’re listening to Kids Talk, I urge them to get in touch with UNICEF or our partners,” Kearney said. “I want to hear from you.”
UNICEF has long advocated for the voices of children to be heard in national and international debate. Articles 12, 13 and 29 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are dedicated to ensuring young people’s right to participate in decision-making processes, to express their opinions freely, and to be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to bring about change in their own lives and communities.
Star Radio is an ideal example of these very rights being put into concrete action.