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Student grades improve after school is renamed

By Alexander Chagema | November 21st 2021
Ebuchinga Secondary School in Lurambi constituency changed its name to Mwangaza Secondary School after parents complained that the name was affecting students psychologically. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

In 2011, Nyakemincha Primary School in Nyamira, Kisii County, made headlines for the simple reason that it emerged at the tail end in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam.

The same had happened the previous year. Almost immediately, people began questioning whether the school’s name had contributed to the pupils’ dismal performance.

In Ekegusi, Nyakemincha means tail. But this is not the only school facing a naming conundrum. In Kakamega County, Ebuchinga Primary and Secondary School is facing a similar challenge.

“When I was posted to head this school in 2018, my first concern was the name. I sought to find out why the school was given that name,” Ebuchinga headteacher Kenneth Barasa says.

To him and many others, the name conveyed the wrong message. Outside the Batsotso sub-tribe, ebuchinga means stupidity.

Barasa goes on to explain: “The first meaning, especially to people who are not conversant with the local dialect, is the inability to excel academically. The second meaning, which gave the school its name, is the dexterity in wrestling matches.”

Academic performance

“This school was built in 1952. Before then, the ground on which the school stands served as a stadium for wrestling matches.

In the local dialect, wrestling is known as Amabwi,” says Benedict Ambundo Asakhulo, a board member of the school and former Councilor of Central Batsotso ward.

“Our men were strong and easily defeated opponents in organised matches. We were then nicknamed Abachinga busiro (heavyweight carriers) because of our prowess and skill in defeating opponents in Amabwi. It was from those wrestling contests that the school got its name when it was built,” says Asakhulo.

He says people have failed to understand the significance of the name and mistakenly associated it with poor academic performance.

“This negative perception has had psychological effects on students in the secondary section. Following appeals, the school board decided to change its name to Mwangaza Secondary school,” he said.

Mwangaza is a Kiswahili term that means light.

Asakhulo argues that a name is not necessarily a reflection of reality or what to expect.

“Look at our neighbouring school called Eshisiru. In our local dialect, this means deaf and dumb, but it does not reflect the truth about the school,” he says.

He lamented that currently, the quality of a school is judged by its performance in KCPE exams, which is misleading. “There is a wide range of things that must be factored in when gauging the performance of a school,” Barasa said.

He added, “My school has been on an upward trend since I came here. In 2018, we had a mean score of 231. We improved to 241 in 2019 before registering 250 in 2020.”

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