Thursday, March 18, 2010

UK kids watching Kenyan television soap

The Kenyan TV programme Makutano Junction is gaining new fans and challenging old ideas in UK schools. Kenyan viewers have been caught up in tales of people who live, do business, fall in love, get sick or get drunk in the fictional town of Makutano. But more surprisingly, viewers now also include school students in the UK watching the soap in the classroom, where it is being used as an awareness raising teaching aid. And it has got the children hooked.

Makutano Junction is an ‘edutainment’ soap series, delivering messages like how to prevent malaria, or how to live with HIV and AIDS.

UK teachers attend induction days, where they are familiarised with programme and supporting material – including a website, and explore how to use them in lessons. With cultural awareness an increasingly important part of UK education, a global dimension is now compulsory in the secondary curriculum, and teachers need to find ways of including it. After watching clips from the programme, children are encouraged to discuss – or develop role plays – based on issues raised in packaged themes such as Exploring Kenya; Living with HIV and AIDS; the Millennium Development Goals and Me.

It’s fascinating when you go into these schools,” says Lloyd Morgan, one of the programme makers. “I find it really shocking what kids’ perceptions are – it’s quite an eye opener. Their perceptions are that Africa is very hot, very dirty and very poor, with lots of wild animals and mud huts. Then we show Makutano. In it we have got characters who are dressed smartly, paint their nails and wear groovy jeans.

So what do British children make of Kenya’s skyscrapers, people who wear fashionable jeans, own a business and use mobile phones? At first, they can be surprised. Lloyd Morgan recalls, “One boy said, 'But Miss, she has a mobile phone. They don’t have mobile phones in Africa.’” Challenging stereotypes is a large part of what the initiative is about.

Back here in Kenya though, we have now realized that Shuga is a more exciting approach for reaching our young people. Shuga follows the lives and loves of a group of cool young students whose bright lives and fabulous futures are balanced on a knife-edge due to their love of risk and danger. It's a story about sex with a great story line and good actors. So why are UK kids still watching Makutano Junction? What do you think UK kids should watch? Let us know in the poll below and feel free to write your observations as comment on this post.


Cold Turkey said...

This is very good news, Rafiki. Fantastic. I'm feeling so proud right now, coz that stereotype thing is one horrible and celebral viewpoint of Africa. I toast to anything rubbing it off.

rags said...


Anonymous said...

You miss the point completely. Suga is a film about youth and sex- if thats all you want to teach english school children about Kenya then vote for that. Makutano Junction on the other hand deals with sexual health and youth but also deals with governance , corruption, ethnicity, sustainable livelihoods, malaria, HIV and TB, Attention Deficit syndrome, menatl health, school text books, infrastructure, climate change locally, enviromental issues, land rights, women's rights, rape, commercial esx workers etc etc etc etc etc . Surely this is educating Keyans about issues at home and those overseas about how these issues are perceived here as well. Suga on the ratings has half the viewership that MJ does because MJ appeals to all .

Anonymous said...

I agree that Makutano Junction has a lot to offer in terms of peoples perception of Africa, it highlights the problems the Africans face and how to go about them and what other people can do to is very educational and hence should be taught in English school sure they stand to learn more and appreciate what they have when they watch Makutano Junction. Kudo's to the makers of Makutano Junction

Rafiki said...

@ Cold Turkey: Please remind me what the capital of Africa is?

@ rags: It is.

@ Anonymous: Could you maybe start by spelling the word Shuga correctly? I would then maybe proceed and read the rest of your comment.

@ Anonymous: Thanks for the encouragement for Makutano Junction!

BabaMzungu said...

Our kids in the UK don't need any more sex education, but I applaud anything that rids them of the African stereotype.
To UK people, Africa is poverty, drought, starvation, flies and HIV/AIDS, BUT Kenya is safaris, coral beaches, palm trees, sun, fun.
I am trying to introduce a bit of reality into the UK view of Kenya.

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Makutano Junction is an ‘edutainment’ soap series, delivering messages like how to prevent malaria, or how to live with HIV and AIDS.