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Truth About Trending Clip of Kenyan Learners Killing Chickens in School

Truth About Trending Clip of Kenyan Learners Killing Chickens in School

A trending video clip of two primary school children in Kenya slaughtering a chicken has sparked outrage and some hilarity about the country’s new curriculum, which places a greater emphasis on practical skills.

One boy is seen pinning down the fowl while another nervously holds a knife to its neck during the outdoor lesson for 11-year-olds on how to kill and cook a chicken.

Some students watch as the teacher, who is filming the incident on his phone, congratulates the boy on cutting off the head and then instructs another, who is holding the body, to place it in a nearby cauldron of boiling water.

The headless chicken flaps its wings and flees as the child lets go of the pot. The 19-second video concludes with the teacher laughing and the hapless and headless chicken still running around as screaming children chase it.

When a chicken’s head is severed, it can run around for several minutes because its spinal cord circuits still have residual oxygen for a short period of time.

It is unlikely that this sixth-grade class will forget it.

The video sparked an outcry on social media, with many people concerned about the children’s safety, though few people raised the issue of the chicken’s suffering, as the sight of chickens being slaughtered is common in rural Kenya.

Since starting primary school, they have been the test subjects for a new curriculum, and have participated in a variety of practical projects ranging from making scarecrows to selling goods at markets.

Supporters of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) see them as pioneers, claiming that it is a better system than the old theory- and exam-based system because it better prepares them for life and finding jobs in the twenty-first century.

They also argue that because there is continuous assessment, it will reduce exam cheating, which has been a major issue for the government.

Around 1.25 million grade six students will soon take exams as part of the Kenya Leaving School Certificate, which will determine their admission to secondary school. 

For the first time, the exam will only account for 40% of their final grade; the rest will be made up by their assessment scores since grade one.

‘Feasting at the expense of parents’

However, some parents are dissatisfied with the new curriculum’s cost because schools expect them to contribute materials and money for items such as chickens needed for practicals.

According to a home science teacher at Kangundo Primary School in eastern Kenya, students from lower-income families are sometimes forced to watch others do their practicals.

“My grade-five pupils, for example, were sewing a handkerchief for their project and some could not afford to buy the fabric, so we ended up using the few that were bought by some pupils,” Jemimah Gitari told the BBC.

She believes some colleagues take advantage of students by requiring them to bring in meat, which she claims was not required for the stewing project.

“My school is in a village where some families cannot even afford a meal due to the rising cost of food so I couldn’t ask them for meat,” she said.

Following the chicken practical, which was completed by grade six students across the country in September, photos were shared on social media that appeared to show teachers eating chicken in a staffroom.

Didmus Barasa, an MP from western Kenya, accused them of feasting on food paid for by parents who couldn’t afford it.

“Now there are no hens in homesteads,” he said in remarks which angered the teachers’ union.

The heated chicken debate reached Kenya’s newly elected President William Ruto, who has since formed a 49-member task force to assess the new curriculum, a pet project of his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta.

It has until the end of the year to make recommendations on whether the CBC rollout should continue for grade six students starting their first year of secondary school in January.

“The books and curriculum designs are ready but we are holding on to get advice before we can distribute them,” Prof Charles Ong’ondo, who heads The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, told the BBC.

Some parents don’t mind the practical aspect of the curriculum, but they complain that it lacks balance because bookwork suffers.

“My daughter, who is in grade four, is doing 12 subjects and each of them has a project. They spent most of their time last term doing projects and so most classwork was not covered,” Rozina Kisilu, a mother of two who lives in the capital, Nairobi, told the BBC.

Ms Gitari adds that the emphasis on practicals makes it more difficult for teachers to complete the syllabus on time, citing the two-week interruption in the previous term due to the general election.

In fact, the last two academic years have been unusual, with four rather than three terms to compensate for time lost during the Covid pandemic.

Others argue that teachers will simply need time to adjust to the new curriculum. This was also criticized recently when several videos went viral showing students in rural areas lying on the ground pretending to swim because they didn’t have access to a swimming pool.

However, Nairobi teacher Marion Muthoni claims that the physical activity project provided teachers with two options: students could swim or skip using a rope depending on their facilities.

“Some of my colleagues are just exaggerating things. The things I’ve seen on social media are quite different from the guidelines we have. With time, teachers will realize not everything needs to be practical,” Ms. Muthoni told BBC.

After a two-year pilot, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) recommended that the CBC not be implemented across the board until teachers were properly trained.

Some educators believe that a pilot should allow for a full education cycle before considering a full rollout so that adjustments can be made.

Sophia Mbevi, the director of a private school in Nairobi, agrees, stating that while the CBC had good intentions, it was implemented too quickly.

Her school provides an alternative curriculum, which is permitted under Kenyan law for private institutions if approved by the education department.

Some wealthy parents prefer private schools with established curricula, such as the one Ms Mbevi leads because they do not want their children’s future to be an experiment.

“There are far-reaching implications to overhauling an education system. A lot needs to be done to expand resources and train teachers before a full rollout,” Ms Mbevi told the BBC.

“I just hope we can stop politicizing education and do the right thing to ensure good quality education for the children.”

The fate of the CBC is now in the hands of the task force, which has six months to complete its full evaluation.

Ms. Mbevi suggests that the government invest in community learning centers where “learners could be assisted to complete their projects, particularly in households where both parents are school dropouts.”

Ms. Muthoni also believes that the government should provide some of the materials needed for projects to alleviate the burden on parents and bridge the social divide.

When asked if this should include live chickens, she suggested that schools raise their own.

Trust About Trending Clip of Kenyan Learners Killing Chickens in School


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