Silenced Voices: Media Fails to Get Children’s Perspectives

In light of the recent taxi strike that had disrupted the city of Cape Town’s transportation system, it is imperative to shed light on the victims of such events. TimesLIVE and IOL did this by highlighting how children’s education was affected by the strike. However, both media missed an opportunity[1] to involve children in the discussions concerning their education during these disruptions.

The TimesLIVE article titled, “Think about the 11-year-old walking home on a freeway: taxi strike ‘casualties’ caught in the middle” (06/08/2023) reports on the ordeal experienced by an 11-year-old old boy who reportedly struggled to get to school due to the strike. The article further says the boy was stranded when his transport failed to arrive at school in Sea Point. According to the article, the child decided to walk — along with scores of commuters who abruptly found themselves stranded. He lives about 30km away in Khayelitsha. The article aimed to highlight the repercussions of the taxi strike on the 11-year-old boy. However, the journalist failed to interview the child in question or any of the other children affected by the strike.

The article from IOL is titled “Cape Town minibus taxi strike keeps 287,000 children home from school – Western Cape Education” (04/08/2023) and covers a parallel incident involving the Cape Town strike. Nonetheless, like the aforementioned situation, the article has also been unable to engage with any children for their insights. The piece reveals that David Maynier, who is identified in the article as the Western Cape Minister of Education, has asserted that the recent Santaco minibus taxi strike has prevented 287,420 learners from exercising their constitutional entitlement to receive fundamental education. The article puts a spotlight on education and children’s right to education. And the reporter does a commendable job in interviewing relevant people but sadly, just as is the case with the TimesLIVE article, the children affected are neglected.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is of the view that if the media are going to report stories that have a central focus on children, then the children must be extensively quoted to share their perspectives. Of course, this must be done only when it is in the children’s best interest to speak. In both these stories, it was in the children’s best interest to share their views especially that this article is about children and how the strike has impacted them.

It’s essential to recognise that South Africa is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).[2] Article 12 of the Convention emphasises that “a child capable of forming their own opinions has the right to express those opinions in all matters affecting them, and to have their views given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity”. South Africa signed the Convention in 1993 and ratified it on the 16th of June 1995.[3] Therefore, including a statement from children would have transcended the articles to great journalism as best practice when reporting on children would have been employed.

MMA urges TimesLIVE and IOL to continue covering stories concerning children, their achievements, and their obstacles. However, it’s equally important to ensure that children are provided with the chance to voice their perspectives, emotions, and encounters, of course only when it is in the children’s best interest to do so.

Written by Ntombifuthi Kubeka

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