Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) would like to commend Daily Sun and Sowetan for publishing stories that highlight the diverse roles that children can play and their abilities to speak for themselves in issues that affect them.

Daily Sun’s story, “Junior mayor will fight for rural kids” (31/07/2014, p.24) is about a 15-year-old boy, Malibongwe Ngcobo, who was elected the new junior major of Mbombela. Throughout the article, Malibongwe is portrayed as an active citizen and a champion for the rights of the children from rural villages as well as those with disabilities. The child’s voice is central to the story. For example, he was quoted as saying, “If there are people who deserve a better life in this country, it has to be children from rural areas. It cannot be right that they continue to live in poverty and poor conditions.” This story demonstrates that children can be active participants in issues that affect them or other children.

In the same vein, Sowetan’s article, “Girl throws jabs, hooks to win official bouts” (05/08/2014, p.9) written by Chris Makhaye does a good job of highlighting and celebrating children’s abilities. The story is about 15-year-old Slindile Memela who is a young female boxer. To a large extent, this article challenges stereotypes that suggest, for example, that boxing is a game played predominantly by men or boys.

The article mentions the young boxer’s latest achievements, as well as the competitions that she is due to compete in. The young boxer is also quoted in the article as saying, “When I first became a boxer everyone thought it was a big joke. But now they realise that I am serious.”

MMA applauds the above mentioned newspapers for ensuring that children’s voices are fully expressed in the stories. Over the years media has ignored the voices of children in the stories that clearly involved them. According to MMA’s report “Children in the news: Seen but still not heard”, the inclusion of children’s voices is still a huge challenge in the media.

Children were only provided a platform to register their views (quoted directly or indirectly) seven percent of the time in news stories relating to them.1 This is significantly very low considering the fact that children constitute about 40 percent of the population.2

MMA is convinced that this kind of reporting by Sowetanand Daily Sun will play a significant role in the realisation of children right to participate and express themselves in the media.

Furthermore, both Daily Sun and Sowetan should be commended for highlighting positive stories about children. These demonstrated that media is cognisant of the positive things that children are doing and are involved in, in their communities. Such reporting helps challenge the stereotypes of children as victims and the tendency of children to predominantly receive media coverage when they are victims or wrong-doers. According to “Children in the News: Seen But still not heard” report, 32 percent of children are mostly reported as victims and less as achievers or positive contributors in our society.3

These forms of portrayal not only build children’s skills and confidence, but they also open up opportunities for children’s own views to be disseminated to the public, as well as challenging negative assumptions about children’s capacities and proficiency.

Media monitors from Troyeville Primary expressed how these stories have inspired them as they show children as positive active citizens. Most of them also felt pleased to read the stories because stories such as these are rare.4

MMA would like to urge other media houses to mirror such reporting to ensure that children and their voices are not marginalised in stories that involve them. MMA also urges both Daily Sun and Sowetan to continue with such coverage of children.

By Musa Rikhotso

1. See the full report here:↩
2. See↩
3. See↩
4. Troyeville Primary school participates in MMA’s Children’s Monitoring Project where learners aged between 12 and 14 are taught media literacy and monitoring skills.↩