Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Daily Sun a Missed Opportunity for its two stories involving children. This is because despite both stories reporting on issues that affect children, the journalists behind these stories missed an opportunity to hear the views of the children on an important education issue which impacts on the children’s safety.
The first story, “Classes under a tree” (Daily Sun, 15/03/2021) reports on children at a school in Shirley village in Limpopo who are forced to learn under trees after a building in their school was destroyed by a storm. The article quotes parents, the School Government Body and Limpopo education department who comment at length about the condition of the school and the plans to rectify the situation. The issue of the children’s safety is also highlighted in the article as parents are reportedly fearful that monkeys and reptiles in the trees will attack their children. The article describes the learning conditions at the mentioned school for the children. However, none of the pupils is interviewed in the story. A photograph of learners sitting under a tree on desks accompanies the article.
The second story also by Daily Sun titled, “School act like Corona’s gone” (11/03/2021) reports on pupils from Gobhogobho primary school in Kwazulu Natal, whose parents are angry because their children have all been called back to school at the same at the expense of their safety against Covid-19. One of the Covid-19 regulations advocates for the practice of social distancing and the parents are concerned that this will be difficult to achieve if all the pupils report to school at the same time.
A parent is quoted saying, “We fear our children will get sick. We may be in lockdown level one but that doesn’t mean Covid19 is no longer here.”
The article is accompanied by a picture of children sitting close to each other in class with their faces responsibly blurred. Like in the first article, none of the pupils were accessed for their views.
Despite the commendable effort by Daily Sun to report stories about children and highlight issues that affect the children, the two articles came short of being great stories, by failing to include the children’s perspectives. By not including the pupils’ voices, Daily Sun missed an opportunity to promote the children’s right to freedom of speech and participation in the news. Articles like these are the reason for the small percentage of children’s voices in news coverage of them. An MMA study found that only 7% of articles about children included their voices in 2020. This means that 93% of articles about children had adults speaking for the children. The lack of children’s voices in media coverage of them when in their best interest perpetuates the stereotype that children are not important enough to be heard on matters that affect them.
This poor practice of missing children’s voices when reporting on them goes against MMA’s Ethical Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media. The guidelines state that “children have the right to have their views heard on matters that affect them, [therefore, media should] try and include them”.
We are encouraged by the work of Daily Sun of covering stories about children and bringing to light issues the children face. However, the publication must always include children perspectives whenever doing so does not expose the children to potential harm.
By Ntsako Manganyi
 A missed opportunity is a story in which children are not accessed for their views when they could have been.
 http://126.96.36.199/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/mma_editorial_guideline.pdf (See page 3)