It is the 21st century, while Kenya celebrated 60 years since acquisition of political independence, a school in the outskirts of Kisumu, still grapples with mental slavery.
“A pupil named Bright Johnson does not want to behave like Atieno Oketch! Meanwhile, those with indigenous names chide their counterparts for lacking a sense of belonging. During class time, when those with English names introduce themselves, those with native names pay keen attention to see if an African surname will pop up,” deputy headteacher Mr. Owenga said.
Welcome to Rabuor Primary School, in Kisumu county! It is here that half of the school’s 1,000 pupils have English/foreign names only and the number keeps rising with each new admission.
Rabuor Primary School
“We have tried to encourage those with native names to love and value them,” he said, adding that some parents have made their children believe that they are more special than those with local names. This makes those with native names to feel inferior and out of place,” the headteacher noted.
Owenga also complained that children with English/foreign names appear uncomfortable embracing African culture and traditions in the school curriculum, which he blamed on parents.
One parent actually said his son’s name was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the boy will not be identified with any ethnic group! “I am very confident that even my grandchildren will only have English names and that my family will not go back to native names,” she said.
Our names are an incredibly important part of our identity. They carry deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical connections. They also give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong, and our place in the world.
Photo: Schools for Africa Org.
Sara Masiga, who has taught at the school for 17 years, says that on many occasions, she had to address bullying by a pupil named after a wrestler. “He is a bully and violent both in class and outside class. When you ask why, he says he is named after a powerful wrestler and he must behave like the wrestler.”
However, it is reported that the children play and socialize with others in the school in a normal way, except when they want to behave like what their names dictate.
“There is a positive side to this. Pupils with English/foreign names strive to behave like those they are named after. Mostly, they are outgoing and perform extremely well in academics,” Owenga added.
Spiritually speaking, your name, when spoken, announces you and identifies your soul's energy. A name with heavy connotation will leave definite energetic impressions on anyone that they encounter and can more importantly alter the path of the soul that carries the name.
So does it mean we have a limitation of heroic African names that our children can be named after?