Children must be interviewed in important issues that affect them if its in their best interest. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) gives Daily SunSowetanLIVE and IOL a Missed Opportunity[1] for failing to give children a voice in stories about the children. The three media in their respective articles report about the problem of overcrowding in schools.

The article, “Pupils taught in storeroom as school struggles with overcrowding” (SowetanLIVE, 23/02/2022) is about overcrowding at a Soweto school. Due to this problem, a storeroom and a staff room are reportedly being used as classrooms. According to the article, these rooms are not fit to accommodate learners as they have poor ventilation and learners sit closely to each other. The article also reports that the school accommodates three hundred learners over its required limit and that this poses a huge risk of Covid-19 transmission. A photograph of learners sitting closely to each other in a small storeroom accompanies the story.

The IOL article titled, “‘Our schools no longer have the problem of drop-outs, but of forced-outs’” (21/02/2022) also focuses on the issue of overcrowding in Western Cape schools. This has reportedly caused some learners to drop out of school. Reverend Christopher Maans, a community leader isquoted saying, “Our schools no longer have the problem of drop-outs, but the problem of forced outs, where our children are forced not to come back to school, because of overcrowding.” The article shows an image of learners in a crowded classroom with some are sitting on the floor.

The third article, “Parents shut down overcrowded school!” (Daily Sun, 21/02/2022) is about a school in Tshwane which was shut down by parents due to overcrowding. The story reports that parents believe that shutting down the school is the only way to get the Department of Education’s attention to address the problem. An image of learners sitting in a crowded classroom are shown with their faces covered in the article, an action that MMA commends Daily Sun for as it protects the children from potential harm such as victimisation.

In all articles, the journalists access teachers, parents and community leaders but not the children who are the central focus of these stories. Children should be accessed in these articles so that they will be able to share the impact of overcrowding, for instance, on their education and their lives. Children have a right to be heard on important issues too such as education. By accessing children in these articles, they will be given a voice to comment on an important issue that affects them. This might ultimately result in issues facing children being addressed from a child’s rights angle by policy makers, for instance, as children will be able to add their views about the issues they face.

MMA’s 2020 media monitoring results[2] on reporting on children reveal that only 7% of children’s voices were heard between May and September, 2020 in media coverage of them. These articles are great examples of how the media continue to neglect children’s voices and rather prefer the opinions of adults in issues affecting children. This does not only violate children’s rights to freedom of speech and participation but also perpetuates the stereotype that children are not important enough to be heard.

We urge SowetanLIVE, Daily Sun and IOL to continue reporting on stories about children but to ensure that the children are afforded an opportunity to express their views when it is in those children’s best interests. 

Written by Girlie Sibanda

Edited by Lister Namumba

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which children were not accessed when they could have been