The Lifetime Achievement Awards of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival has honoured Ms. Jacqui Hlongwane (Programme Manager, SABC) for her tireless efforts in ensuring quality content for South African children.

Jaqui is a dynamic, passionate, creative and driven individual. The African continent, its people, the arts, cultures, languages, history, nature, and places inspire and fascinate her.

She’s a teacher by profession, with a BA in the Arts and a BA in Remedial Education – she has always been passionate about education it’s no surprise that Jaqui’s journey in the media has a clear commitment to children – and her work in broadcasting spans over 28 years. She’s trained producers from across Africa and Asia on quality children’s content. Her focus has always been about mentoring and development young people.

Over the years Jaqui has been at the heart of every strategy on children’s media at the SABC. She has a deep understanding of the needs of children in our complex society. She was the head of genre, for almost a decade at the SABC, where she was responsible for the reversioning and repurposing of channels and she was also the editor of the youth and public education unit – managing the editorial outputs of these units. 

You may also recall that Jaqui was in front of the camera as well, between 1994 and 2000, where she presented, produced, wrote and directed various shows – including, Take 5 and Tshisimani.

Some of her accolades and achievements include:

• The SABC Award for leadership in Management

• The SABC Excellence Awards finalist in the Rock Star Category

• She has served on juries and selection committees, such as the International Emmy Awards in the category “children and young people programming”, the Prix Italia Competition, and as a jury member of the Guangzhou Documentary Festival in China as well as The Japan Prize – an organisation that champions children’s productions. 

• She’s been appointed as the President of the 75thPrix Italia Competition on the Digital and Interactive Category

• She’s been nominated as the Jury president at the URTI, Grand Prix for the Author’s Documentary Competition – the URTI is part of UNESCO and one of the oldest audiovisual international organisations

• And in April this year, Jaqui received the Film Leadership Award from KIDDZPAS in recognition for her work and contribution to children’s television and film.

Jaqui was also one of the judges that selected Tsotsi as South Africa’s entry to the Academy Awardsunder the Best Foreign Language category…and that year, 2006, the Oscar came home.

Today, as we honour and celebrate the incredible role that Jaqui plays in the area of media for children, we are also taken back to the formative years of placing children’s media and broadcasting firmly on the South African agenda from the early 80’s into post-apartheid South Africa – when Children’s Rights Organisations under the leadership of Firdoze Bulbulia and last year’s Lifetime Achievers, Liz Castle and Benjy Francis – all also teachers by profession – were, (with other activists across the country), at the forefront of championing children’s rights and children’s rights to media, arts and culture for and with children – in both policy and practice. And when the international Children’s Television Charter and subsequent children’s media charters and programme guidelines, were developed, Jaqui, as a young media professional at the time, also engaged passionately in those early processes. It was then, and still is today, about locating children at the centre – and about developing quality content that ensures that children, in all their diversity are represented, are participating, and are engaged.

So, it is incredibly satisfying when Jaqui’s generation carries the important work of children’s media and broadcasting forward, and we are all incredibly proud to to see her programmes such as Kids News Room, and World Kids News Room – also being recognised at forums such as the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association – and winning the MIP Junior Award at Cannes for Best Kids’ News Reports.

Jacqui has indeed been on a lifelong mission to advance children’s content and her passion, commitment and dedication will no doubt inspire the generation that follows her… thank you Jaqui! Congratulations on this well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award by the NMCFF and the CBFA.

Firdoze Bulbulia and Faith Isiakpere are the co-directors of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival.