Missing Children’s Voices

SowetanLIVE missed out on an opportunity for a good story by neglecting to incorporate the voices of children in its coverage of issues involving the children. As a result, the story receives a MOP[1] from Media Monitoring Africa (MMA). Failing to consult with children on matters that impact them denies them the chance to participate in discussions, offer insights, and help develop solutions. This lack of engagement also undermines the empowerment of children.

In a story titled, Why was food not delivered to 5,400 schools, asks KZN education portfolio committee”, (14/04/2023) SowetanLIVE reports on pupils who were unable to get a meal as part of the national school nutrition programme because of the problems between the department of Education and suppliers. The story further mentions that 5, 400 schools were affected.

It is concerning that even though the article reports on issues that affect the lives of children and indeed their education because of known problems associated with learning on an empty stomach, their voices are neglected. By failing to access children for their views, SowetanLIVE missed an opportunity to promote their rights to expression and participation in the news. This goes against best practice when it comes to reporting on children as stated in many ethical reporting frameworks including in MMA’s Ethical Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media.

Furthermore, this story also fails to take into consideration Article 12 of the United Nations Convection on the Rights of the Child, which “states parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.[2]

It is a well-established fact, documented in several reports by MMA that children are often not provided with an opportunity to express themselves. In 2022, for instance, a study discovered that a mere 8% of stories about children included their perspectives.[3]

Society needs to hear more of children’s voices, on how they are affected, their struggles, feelings, views, and beliefs for the creation of effective interventions. This will not only enrich stories but will also help empower children to speak more on the issues that affect them and in addition, other children will also be inspired by hearing their peers’ voices in the media.

MMA encourages reporters to show initiative when reporting on children and to include their voices especially when there is no potential for harm.

Written By Musa Rikhotso

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka

[1] A missed opportunity is a story in which children should have been accessed but were not.

[2] https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/convention-text

[3] https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/monitoring-research-analysis/