MMA gives a Missed Opportunity[1] to The Star for its article that celebrates a toddler for his high intelligence traits but does not access him. By not accessing the child, The Star missed an opportunity for a great story that would have been achieved by getting the child’s perspective on his capabilities.

Family expect great things from ‘gifted’ son, aged 2” (The Star, 28/05/2019, p.3) is about a two-year-old boy, Omphile Tswai who has “high intelligence traits such as being able to read long sentences and any given word such as “suggestion”, “remember” and “flabbergasted””. According to the article, he can read from books including the “inscriptions on notebooks and writing inside”. A photograph of a smiling Omphile with a positive caption accompanies the article.

However, while the lengthy article portrays the toddler positively, it does not include his views to the article. That the child truly portrays that self-learning is a powerful tool, the addition of his perspective would have further encouraged the possibilities of self-learning and potentially validated that Early Childhood Development (ECD) is crucial.

The reporter accesses the child’s mother who is quoted saying, “Omphile has an extensive vocabulary and he is very sensitive, his feelings are hurt easily, especially when a person disturbs him when he’s learning”. The article further accesses and quotes the child’s brother and aunt. Although The Star should be commended for the positive article that celebrate the child, MMA is of the view that the reporter should have accessed the child to also highlight his capabilities of being able to express himself at such a young age.

To answer the possible question of whether the child is too young to speak, The Star, though possibly not deliberate, writes in the article, “His [he] talks with a lisp, which is characteristic for his age”.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC)[2] in article 7 states,

“Every child who is capable of communicating his or her own views shall be assured the rights to express his opinions freely in all matters and to disseminate his opinions subject to such restrictions as are prescribed by laws.” South Africa ratified the ACRWC in 2000.

Additionally, MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[3] encourage journalists to include children’s views on matters that affect them as children have the right to have their views heard.

MMA looks forward to reading articles in future by The Star that will access children in cases that will not cause them any harm. We further encourage the publication to continue reporting on children’s stories.

By Nomshado Lubisi


[1]  A missed opportunity is a story in which, for instance, children should have been accessed but are not.