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These African children did not die after eating poisoned birthday treats at school

A video that has been shared widely on social media networks for more than a year claims to show students who were poisoned at school, but in fact, the video shows victims of a school stampede in Kenya in February 2020.
A video that has been shared widely on social media networks for more than a year claims to show students who were poisoned at school, but in fact, the video shows victims of a school stampede in Kenya in February 2020. © Observers

A video that has been continuously circulating on social networks in West Africa since early 2020 claims to show a group of schoolchildren, from an unidentified country, who died after eating poisoned biscuits at a classroom birthday celebration. In fact, the video was taken after an incident that occurred in Kenya in February 2020, in which a stampede at a primary school led to the death of 15 children.

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Warning: This article contains images that some may find distressing.

A reader from Nigeria alerted the FRANCE 24 Observers team to a video that has been circulating on WhatsApp and other social networks in West Africa, notably in Nigeria and Ghana. In the video, about a dozen children are seen lying on the ground, while adults yell and cry around them.

The caption shared above the video says, “One of their class member was celebrating birthday, brought biscuits etc, shared to other members in the class, they ate and died all.”

The same video was posted on Facebook as recently as June 2, 2021, and was viewed more than 7.6 thousand times. No date or location is attributed to the incident in the caption.

A video claiming to show the death of schoolchildren after a classmate shared biscuits for their birthday was posted on Facebook June 2.
A video claiming to show the death of schoolchildren after a classmate shared biscuits for their birthday was posted on Facebook June 2. © Facebook

The same video was shared on Facebook as early as February 25, 2020, with the same claim the children pictured were killed by poisoning at school. Since then, the video has been picked up by several news sites. GH Gossip, a Ghanaian media, reported on March 11, 2020 that the children ate poisoned food at a birthday party in their classroom, and died at a hospital in Kaduna State, Nigeria. The website Opera News claimed, on June 8, 2021, that the children were killed after a mother poisoned a birthday cake.

The video has also been presented in several other contexts: a group of poisoned Togolese children, a call for donations for families of children killed in South Africa, children killed in Malawi by a “human-like” spirit, or victims of a gas attack in Zambia.

Why it’s false

A keyword search for relevant terms related to these claims can help you find the real story. A search for “Nigeria birthday poisoning schoolchildren” leads you to this article from Piga Firimbi, the fact-checking site of media Africa Uncensored

A screengrab taken on June 14, 2021 shows the results of a Google search for keywords related to the claim.
A screengrab taken on June 14, 2021 shows the results of a Google search for keywords related to the claim. © Observers

From Piga Firimbi’s verification, we learn that the children in this video actually lost their lives in a stampede at the Kakamega Primary School in Kenya on February 3, 2020.

You can also take a look at the comments on the posts. On this post, shared on March 7, 2020, an internet user says that the children were not poisoned, but killed in a stampede. 

In a version of the video posted on Facebook March 7, 2020, a commenter replies that the children were not killed by poisoning.
In a version of the video posted on Facebook March 7, 2020, a commenter replies that the children were not killed by poisoning. © Observers

In an NTV Kenya news report of the stampede at Kakamega Primary School, we can see footage of other students being carried out of the building and taken to hospital in ambulances. Their light-green school uniforms are identical to those worn by the children in the original video shared online. Videos taken by AFP show the same school uniforms on injured children in hospital after the incident.

A news report from NTV Kenya on February 3, 2020 shows children injured in the Kakamega Primary School stampede being taken to hospital.

The original footage that has been shared out of context can be found using a reverse image search (click here to find out how). It was shared on February 3, 2020 by a Facebook page called Gusii Minto.Com, with the caption, “Really pained by the Kakamega Primary School tragedy”.

The tragic accident at Kakamega Primary School in Kenya on February 3, 2020 led to the death of 15 children, aged between 10 and 12, and left dozens more injured. Some children were on the third floor of the school when a commotion occurred and the students began to rush out of the building and fell over one another on the narrow staircase, according to the BBC.