Involving children’s voices is essential.

Involving children in competitions and learning about recycling is important in fostering their development as active citizens. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) believes that it is imperative that we involve them in issues that affect them. It is unfortunate that Daily News missed an opportunity[1] to access children in an article that concerns them.

The article titled, “uMlazi school bags jungle gym through recycling collection” (09/04/24) reports that Emthethweni Primary School in uMlazi unveiled their playground after the school won the Siyasizana Competition requiring pupils to collect Sasko bread plastic bags for recycling. The school principal Sibusiso Makhoba said winning the competition was an amazing surprise for him because he saw in it the elevation of his school. The article fails to include interviews with the children who were featured multiple times in the photographs accompanying the piece. Throughout the article, the voice of the principal is consistently present, yet the perspectives of the children involved in plastic collection and recycling are notably absent.

MMA holds the perspective that when the media covers stories centred around children, it is crucial for those children to be prominently quoted, allowing them to share their viewpoints extensively. MMA’s 2022 media monitoring results on reporting on children reveal that only 8% of children’s voices were heard between May and September 2022 in media coverage of them[2]. Unfortunately, this type of reporting contributes to the ongoing issue of marginalising children’s voices within the media. One fundamental principle of ethical journalism is to consistently prioritise the well-being of children when covering stories that involve them. Journalists should strive to portray children in a respectful and empowering manner, refraining from sensationalising, or exploiting their experiences for the sake of a story.

Neglecting children’s voices when covering issues that affect them is a violation of their rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 13[3] and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC) Article 7.[4]  Both of these articles aim to advocate for children’s rights, including their right to freedom of expression, dignity, and privacy, among other fundamental rights. These articles were officially adopted by South Africa in 1995 and 2000, respectively. Engaging children in matters that directly impact them not only benefits their personal development but also enhances the media landscape, fostering a more inclusive, well-informed, and empowered society.

The children demonstrated commendable actions by collecting plastics and gaining insights into recycling. The enthusiasm generated by winning the jungle gym should have been evident enough for the journalist to seek out the voices and perspectives of the children involved. MMA encourages the Daily News to maintain its coverage of stories involving children, encompassing their accomplishments as well as the challenges they face. However, it’s equally imperative to provide children with the opportunity to express their viewpoints, feelings, and experiences.

Written by Ntombifuthi Kubeka