From Gatina to Gakuyu: Why Nyeri school had to change name

Gatina Primary School changed its name to Gakuyu Primary to avoid the vulgar connotation and poor performance. [Courtesy]

For parents, students and administrators at a school in Mathira Constituency, the name of the institution was the cause of their poor performance and morale.

Gatina Primary School in Nyeri County was the butt of a joke for decades, and after enduring the ridicule, administrators decided to change the name, hoping it will change the fortunes for the consistently poor performer.

Located on the border of Mathira and Mukurweini, the school got its name ‘Gatina’ for being at the tail end of both constituencies. Gatina is a Kikuyu word for small buttocks.

The school is located in Gakuyu Sub-location in Konyu Ward and has now been renamed Gakuyu Primary School.

Headteacher Gabriel Mungai, who joined the school last year, said that while the institution’s classrooms were getting a facelift, the academic performance continued to decline.

“School performance has been dismal for years and when I joined this institution, I tried to figure out what was causing the poor morale among students and teachers. But after consultations, I realised the name was one of the root problems,” he said.

He said the name of the school originated from the location as it was far from local towns and they used the word ‘Gatina’ to describe this long distance and the fact that it was on the periphery of the locality.

“This negative connotation of being beyond reach and being associated with a body part were among the biggest challenges in changing the mindset of the pupils and teachers,” Mungai said.

The headteacher said last term he called parents for a meeting and asked them to consider changing the name in a bid to transform the school.

“Last term we agreed to change the name of the school to Gakuyu Primary to transform the image and perception of the school,” he said.

Mungai said the school’s performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations has always been below average – a mean score of less than 200 marks. However, with the change of name, he is confident this will be a thing of the past.

“In the next KCPE exam, we target a mean grade of at least 270 marks,” he said.

Jacinta Wanjiru, a parent and alumna of the school, said the name was always demoralising for the pupils.

“When we were children we felt the school’s name was an insult because when we visited other institutions for extracurricular activities such as games we were ridiculed,” she recalled.

She said she hoped the change of name would give the school a fresh start.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) had spent Sh2.5 million in renovating the classrooms. The renovation included laying of new tiles and roofing.

“The school’s name was one of the challenges the new headteacher listed after he realised it was affecting the overall performance of the school,” Gachagua said.

He said the school’s name had a vulgar connotation and this had subjected the pupils to ridicule and affected them psychologically.

“Children here were laughed at and teased and it was really unfortunate,” Gachagua said.

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