What’s in a name?


I sat pensively waiting to be let in to see the principal.

I never liked going to the principal’s office. I was one of those students who never got into trouble. Actually, I never really got into anything let alone trouble. I still meet people who were in the same school with me for four years but never saw or heard me do anything. I was really quiet. I was so quiet that most of the teachers who taught me don’t remember me ever answering a question or asking any. So you’d have to swear an affidavit and take a polygraph test to confirm to them that I was one of their students. I was present and absent at the same time, mostly, I was absent.

So I had no reason to ever be found at the principal’s office. I was not outstanding in class and neither was I out of class. I was very average. Average is bad because no one ever notices you. My class had more than fifty boys but they only noticed the top 20 and the bottom 10, the rest of us were just there, mostly making up the numbers. That tells you that being very good or terribly bad at something is better than being average. No one remembers average people even when they are good people.

So I had no reason not to like the principal’s office but then again, I had no reason to like it either. Rarely did anyone visit that office for good reason. Most boys would land at the principal’s office as a disciplinary matter. If you were ever told to go see the principal, you’d start wondering what you’d done wrong. Then you’d borrow a tie and a blazer then wipe your shoes clean. The principal’s office wasn’t a place anyone wanted to visit.

I had come to see the principal in protest.

See, I needed to attend my big sister’s wedding that Saturday and the deputy principal had, in his own wisdom or lack of it, thought it a very trivial reason. He, the deputy principal, was a very slender man in his fifty’s. He was dark, very dark. His complexion was the kind of black that shines. You’d be forgiven for thinking that he had applied a fresh coat of the legendary kiwi shoe polish on his face. He had a long thin face, which he mostly adorned with spectacles that had square shaped lenses.

The boys had nicknamed him Kamwova. This, believe it or not, is an English name. The deputy principal had a habit of telling the boys to “come over here!” which, as a result of his misguided pronunciation and the uncanny mother tongue influence to his speech would mostly sound like “kamwova”. He obviously had no idea that that was what we called him.

So the deputy principal had spent not more than a minute listening to why I needed to be away. He had practically brushed it aside as a non-issue and decided that he didn’t need to bother his otherwise busy intellect listen to a boy who didn’t want to stay in school.

“Yes Kijana! What is the problem?” He asked.

I heaved a sigh, squared my shoulders and had almost opened my mouth to answer him when he belted out in a loud voice “Kijana! Are you going to speak or stand there like a zombie? I asked you what the problem was!”

“I need permission Sir.” I sheepishly said.

“Permission for what?” He asked.

“My sister is getting married on Saturday and I wanted…”

“No!” He yelled out, “Go back to class!”

I didn’t move. Partly because I felt that I had not gotten a fair hearing and wanted to protest, peacefully of course. So I just stood there. I was about to open my mouth and try to explain myself further when he beat me to it.

“Kijana! What are you still doing here! I said no! Get out of my office and go to class.”

I turned, dejected, and walked out. I was going to go to class but then thought that I couldn’t give up that easily. My sister had made sure that she had a new suit ready made for me complete with a new pair of shoes. Also, this was our firstborn sister, and this was the first wedding ever for us to celebrate as a family, how could I miss it? No! I wasn’t going to miss it for anything. Those thoughts made me turn back. I headed straight to the principal’s office. I hoped that I wouldn’t meet the deputy on my way there. I got to the reception and found two or three people there. They looked like parents. A teacher was talking to the secretary about something. I sat next to one of the parents and kept mum.

After a few minutes, the teacher walked out. The principal’s secretary, stood and looked at me menacingly and asked, “Kijana! Unataka nini?”

“I want to see the principal.” I softly replied.

“Want? Wewe ata courtesy words hujui kutumia?” What do you want to see him for? She asked.

It hit me, at that moment, that I needed to come up with a good reason as to why I needed to see the principal. Asking for permission to go for a wedding had proven to be a flimsy reason so far. I had to think and think fast.

I was still thinking when the door to the principal’s office opened abruptly. The principal walked out, stood at the door and looked at the people seated at the reception. Our principal was a big man with a thunderous voice to match his hitherto big frame. I stood there, visibly startled, not knowing exactly what to do. The principal looked at me and for some reason decided that he needed to attend to me first.

“Boy!” He yelled out.

Now, our principal always referred to the students as boys. It didn’t matter whether he knew your name or not. Your first name was always “Boy!”

“What do you want here? Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” He asked.

Before I could answer him back he turned to the parents, more cordially now and greeted them, asked them what they needed. It turned out that one needed to see his son while the other two needed admission for their sons. He had finished speaking to them and turned to walk back to his office when he suddenly remembered that I was still there.

“Boy! Come in here and tell me what you want.” He said.

My feet didn’t move for a split two seconds but were shocked to motion by the shrill voice of the secretary.

“Weee! Kwani huskii! Ingia!” She blurted out.

I walked into the principal’s office. For the four years I had been a student, I had never set foot in this office. Like I said, I was average and I guess average people had no business seeing the principal. I Stood rooted at the side of the door. The principal, moved swiftly, threw himself without a care and landed his massive body onto his seat. He clasped his hands round his face then turned towards me.

“Close the door and take a seat young man!” He said.

I cautiously sat. I shifted to the right and left, adjusting my position so that I could find some form of comfort. I didn’t find any though. I looked up only to meet the principal squarely looking at me as though to study my thoughts and intentions.

“Uhmm! So what do you want Boy?” He asked.

“Sir!” I said in a low almost mumble of a voice “Well… See… My sister is getting married on Saturday and I, well, I needed permission to go attend the wedding.”

“Who is your sister?” The principal barked out.

“That’s a funny question,” I thought “because, what did it matter who my sister was anyway? It’s not like he knew her or anything?” I answered anyway.

“She’s called Ann.”

“Kijana! What is your name?” He asked.

“Mwendwa.” I answered.

“Who is your father?” He retorted.

“Again, what does my father have to do with anything?” I thought.

“Mutua, my father is Mutua.” I answered.

“What does your father do?” He asked.

Now I was getting a little bit irritable with this line of questioning. I needed a leave of absence to attend my sister’s wedding. I was pretty sure that what my father did or who my sister was were not the most important things at the moment. Nonetheless, I composed myself and answered the man.

“My father is a Bishop.” I said.

“Your father is Bishop who?” The principal asked a bit animatedly.

“My father is Bishop Mutua.” I answered.

That answer seemed to have shocked the principal. He shot up from his seat and walked up to the front of his desk. He stood there, eyes firmly fixed on me. He looked a bit bewildered.

“Kijana!” He exclaimed, “Your father is Bishop Mutua?” He asked, almost in a shout.

I, for some reason, did understand why he was making a fuss out of my father being Mutua or he being a Bishop. I mean my father had being a bishop since I could remember.

“Yes Sir! My father is Bishop Paul Mutua.” I said.

The principal stood there, motionless for a few minutes before he grabbed my hand and vigorously shook it for what felt like 10 minutes. He then walked back to his seat, still visibly shocked and sat, the firm gaze still fixed at me.

When he finally composed himself and got to talk, he told me that he knew my father. He spoke about my father being a true man of God. He told me that many years ago he had heard of him and he had once met him preaching at a burial service.

“Your father preached until we thought the deceased man would come back to life.” He said, breaking into a spontaneous laughter.

The principal went to talk about my father for countless minutes even forgetting why I had come to see him. After talking endlessly, he looked at me and asked “Kijana, what did you want?”

I looked at him, wondering whether he had forgotten what I had told him and said, “My sister is getting married, I needed permission to attend the wedding.”

“Oh, the wedding, right!” He said, “So what’s the problem? Go, attend the wedding please!”

He took a piece of paper, scribbled on it, signed it, stamped it and handed it to me.

“There’s your pass!” He said, “Go back to class.”

I stood up, thanked him profusely, and was about to walk out of the office when he called me back.


“Sir!” I answered.

Greet your father for me!” He offered.

“I will Sir!” I said.

As I walked out of the door, a spring in my step, and went back to class. I sat at my desk, a huge grin on my face. I had permission to attend my sister’s wedding thanks to a name, thanks to my father’s name.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s in a name?”

  1. Well dictioned and manicured piece!

    The name did magic! No wonder Paul of Tarsus always was keen to say he studied under the feet of Gamaliel the esteemed senior council of this contemporary world.

  2. Funny how we learned about the power of a good name. It opens doors where others are just left sitting outside looking in.

    Also, it is sad that our 8-4-4 teachers did not have the skills to talk to children as children. Rarely did they want us to see them as human as that would force them to see our humanity.

  3. Nice read as always….Pastor T…..that episode with ‘Kamwova’ and the Principal should sort of be dramatised….the expressions would look good….

  4. The kamwova part😂😂.
    Great read. Got me thinking alot. What’s in my name.. will my name be associated with greatness, true service like papa Mutua or will it be nothing.
    Learnt alot 💯

  5. It is written in the Bible “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” there is something powerful about a name. What happened when Kamwova found out you” pulled rank” lets have the sequel…

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