NTU Kukubird Chant At University Orientation Camp
A video recently went viral of NTU students at their university orientation camp. The students were pointing to their crotch, motioning at an imaginary penis while chanting:
“Kukubird, kukubird, this is my kukubird!”
“Kukubird, kukubird, look at my kukubird!
“Kukubird, kukubird, so looong my kukubird!”
Many Singaporeans were left dumbfounded because:
a) They had never seen a penis this long in their life.
b) They had not heard the term ‘kukubird’ in decades, a local slang for male genitalia.
Personally, I had a good laugh. Many others felt that it was an embarrassing representation of a world-class institution. Some NTU students have defended the cheer, citing that it “takes awkwardness out of the rest of the camp,” and that it helps activities “become way more effective in building cohesion.”
The student explains, “What’s there to be shy about a few body parts? Nothing! Exactly! We make silly cheers about it.”
Kennede Sng, a current student in SMU, says, “Maybe if we as a country weren’t so uptight about sex all the time, we’d have grown out of jokes about our genitals at a much younger age.”
Orientation can make up for our lacking sex education
Most of our sex education in secondary school focuses on abstinence. The lack of open discussions on the nuances of sexuality creates an environment where teenagers may feel apprehensive to clarify their doubts. On a personal level, I experienced most of my sex education in National Service, where other servicemen talked candidly about their escapades in Geylang.
It really wasn’t the best way to learn about the (kuku)birds and the bees.
With the rise of sexual harassment cases on campuses, purposefully allowing students to talk candidly and raise questions about their sexuality during orientation could be wise.
Orientation can be more than questionable games
Some have commented on Reddit and NTU Confessions that not everyone enjoys games and cheers with a generous dose of Hokkien vulgarities and sexual innuendos. They can also be alienating to minority students.
I did not attend a local university, and thoroughly enjoyed my orientation as a minority in the USA.
My orientation consisted of going for discounted Broadway shows, mental health talks, and dedicated forums for an international student like me, such as how to cope with culture shock.
In year 2 of university, I signed up to be an orientation leader. I spent time addressing the concerns of other international students, some of whom have poor English proficiency. My job was meaningful in helping high school graduates have an easier time transitioning into university life.
I believe our local university students are capable of the same and much more.
Ways to improve the university orientation programme
Sex-ed forums can be a component of university orientation, where students discuss sexuality in a non-judgmental environment. To ensure inclusivity and up-to-date information, stakeholders like the Inter-University LGBT Network and professional counsellors can chair such forums.
Relevant issues such as what to do when sexually harassed on campus should be covered. Universities can take this opportunity to talk about heightened security measures to prevent peeping toms in dormitories.
Peer vigilant networks can also be set up, to prevent students of the opposite gender from sneaking into single-gender floors in dormitories.
Besides sex education, survival hacks like where to find the best yong tau foo in NTU, amongst other tips, will prove extremely useful for a newbie to the campus.
While going for a Broadway show on the cheap is not an option here, how about organising trips to the National Gallery?
These can be alternative ways to break the ice amongst freshies. You might be surprised at how many young Singaporeans have not visited these places of interest in their own country.
The orientation committee can also look into creating a buddy system of pairing a few freshies with a senior. That way, seniors can provide emotional and practical support beyond just the rah-rah period of orientation.
The NTU Kukubird Cheer Signals That University Orientation Programmes Should Be Overhauled
There is nothing inherently wrong with penis-related cheers. The NTU kukubird hoo-ha is simply symptomatic of our embarrassment in talking candidly about sex.
Perhaps that conversation has been long overdue for youth in their early 20s, some of whom have had little interaction with peers of the opposite sex through 2 years of National Service.
Let’s face it: the “abstinence is the best solution to sexually transmitted diseases” framework that seems to guide our sex education has long been irrelevant. More so, for university students who are becoming sexually active and increasingly ‘woke’.
The goal of orientation is to help freshies feel comfortable and safe in a university environment. Let’s talk about sex, consent and appropriate ways to express our sexuality. And then maybe cheering about kukubirds will be less incendiary.