The Children’s Radio Foundation in South Africa
Like any city, Cape Town has its own unique soundscape. There’s the Signal Hill Cannon that goes off daily with a thundering boom at noon, minibus taxi drivers yelling their destinations to potential street-side passengers, and constant chatter in English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, or maybe a hybrid of any of the country’s 11 official languages.
It’s a teeming city in a country made for radio. Not just in sound, but in infrastructure. Once a tool of division during apartheid, radio is now a means to bring millions of people together. And the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) is helping to build that momentum.
When I first arrived in Cape Town, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my three-month internship with CRF. It turned out to be a radio learning curve I’ll never forget, and an experience I’d recommend to any aspiring radio producer.
Radio produced by youth, featuring youth and made for their peers–this is the radio niche that CRF is nurturing, giving young people the tools and skills to make their own voices heard. Across the African continent, CRF trains facilitators and young people to establish and grow youth reporter networks. They’ve set up radio projects in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia, with several more countries on the way. Youth reporters learn to create audio postcards, public service announcements and host weekly shows for youth on community radio stations, with some station listenerships in the millions.
In addition to the hands-on work with youth, CRF produces a weekly show out of their Cape Town office called the Radio Workshop that airs on SAfm, a station that broadcasts nationally. The show features interviews, profiles and documentary-style stories that create a space for dialogue about issues affecting young people. It’s a place for talking about things that don’t always get discussed at home or at school, like having a difficult conversation with parents, managing money or sexuality.
In my experience as a production intern with CRF, I had the opportunity to record all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. I sipped lemonade on the porch of the family home of a young magazine entrepreneur, watched a thriving soccer club practice in the sprawling community of Khayelitsha, and listened as an ex-gang member described how he’s now a leader in his Cape Flats neighborhood, but still has difficulty hugging his own son.
In all of these situations, there was an eagerness to talk, an openness and level of hospitality unrivaled in most of my previous audio documentary work. Even chance encounters yielded unforgettable moments. One afternoon in the community gardens, I wandered around, recorder in hand, hoping to find some students who might be willing to talk about South African Youth Day. I struck up a conversation with a small 13-year-old girl who looked like she was being swallowed up by her blue school blazer. Her eyes came alive at the mention of Youth Day. Her mother had been in Soweto at the time of the 1976 riots that turned violent against school children. Every year on the June 16th anniversary, mother and daughter both put on their school uniforms and discuss the importance of the day. Our own talk took place in the shadow of the parliament building, a place still trying to figure out the best way to recover from divisive legislation enacted decades ago.
And this is where you come in. CRF is looking for more interns to help produce the Radio Workshop. With the Cape Town team, you’d go out on interviews, craft scripts, help train young reporters, and edit sound. The internship would be unpaid, but your radio-making experience will be a rich and textured one. In South Africa, you’ll grow as a radio storyteller. You’re not only working in a foreign country, you’re working in a young democracy full of people holding on to stories untold, waiting for someone to listen.
We accept applications on a rolling basis—please shoot us an email if you’re going to be in Cape Town. Even if you’re past the internship phase in your life, if anything here strikes a chord, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for new radio friends from around the world.
Kaitlin Parker is a journalist and master’s student at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. After spending three months living and working in Cape Town, South Africa, she’s back in Los Angeles, seeking out stories in South LA communities. She’s also a certified yoga teacher. When she remembers, she jots down thoughts at Sounds Like a Parker.