In many schools, including universities, students always get creative by giving nicknames to teachers and different things.
Since 2000, every intake apart from 2002 to 2004, had a nickname at the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Sciences. The nicknames were derived from events or personalities who were making newspaper headlines locally, in the region or at a global stage.
Jean Paul Kwizera, who studied at the campus from 1995 to 1999 and is now a lecturer in the School of Arts and languages, said the nick names were introduced by a stubborn clique of students who called themselves ‘abakonari’, derived from the French word ‘Connard’ which loosely means an anti-social and annoying person who uses comedy to insult people.
“They were naughty and used to say what they want in front of anyone, without thinking whether their words were controversial. They had their own fashion and rules, most of the time they wore caps and big dark sun glasses to try and disguise their identity,” he said.
Kwizera added that giving nicknames to new intakes started in 2000, but that even before that, abakonari had given nicknames to several areas and things, adding that some of the nicknames were shocking.
“For example, when the number of students increased and hostels became insufficient, some of the stores at the campus were converted into dormitories, Abakonari started calling them ‘fausses communes’ instead of common rooms, which means mass graves,” he said.
When Dr Emile Rwamasirabo, the former Rector of the University of Rwanda said students should be provided with jam for their bread at the university restaurant, students immediately started calling it ‘Amasirabo.’
The nicknames that were given to the different intakes from 2000 to 2016 when Dr. UstaKayitesi, the former principal of the College of Arts and Social sciences, banned the culture.
The 1999/2000 student intake was called “Abaceceniya” after Second Chechen War also known as the Second Chechen Campaign.
The Chechen conflict happened after Islamist fighters from Chechnya who infiltrated Russian’s Dagestan region and declared it an independent state, then called for Jihad to convert all people to Islam.
In October 1999, Russian troops entered Chechnya and restored Russian federal control over the territory.
The 2000/2001 intake was called Abayanja after a political organization that former president Pasteur Bizimungu wanted to start after resigning from the presidency. The organisation was however never registered.
The 2005 intake was called ‘Abajanjawide’, after an armed group called Janjaweed which was since 2003 one of the main players in the Darfur Conflict.
The 2006 intake was called ‘Abatigistes’ from the French abbreviation of Travauxd’IntérêtsGénéral (TIG), a government policy which was introduced at the time for convicted criminals of the Genocide who had confessed their crimes and had to do community work as they were rehabilitated back into the community.
In 2007, Students in first year were called Ababurugeri, after French judge Jean Louis Bruguière indicted senior army officers for the shooting down of the plane that was carrying former President Juvenile Habyrimana. The case collapsed due to lack of evidence.
The 2008 intake was called Mano y’inanga after MTN introduced mobile phone numbers that didn’t have ‘88’at the beginning of their mobile numbers. Mano y’Inanga was a popular advert at the time, which was used to popularize the new MTN number.
In 2009, students were called Abavangarayi after Zimbabwean opposition politician MorganTsvangarai, who was also head of the Movement for Democratic Change.
Tsvangarai was a candidate in the 2008 presidential elections against then president Robert Mugabe but rejected the elections which he claimed to have won something that sparked off riots in the country.
He would later enter into a coalition with Mugabe and become Prime Minister in 2009.
The 2010 intake was called Ibicurane because of Swine Flu, which at the time was ravaging the region and people were warned through media to limit risks.
In 2011, girls were called Nyakatsi because of the government policy of replacing all traditional huts with the modern houses for Rwandans in rural areas.
The Boys were called ibigarasha, a nickname that was used to refer to enemies of the country.
The 2012 intake was called M23 because of a Congolese rebel group which was based in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Inyatsi and Abadehe
In 2013, girls was called Inyatsi, after a local sports journalist used the word to refer to players who were underperforming in football matches while the boys were called Abadehe after the Ubudehe program, a social protection policy which was introduced by the government to help people out of poverty.
Inkongi and Ibirarane
Girls of the 2014 intake were called ‘Inkongi’ because of the sporadic fires that were gutting many buildings in Kigali and some upcountry districts.
Boys in the same year were called ‘Ibirarane’ after allowance arrears of students at the campus, something that proved to be a challenge at the time for both the campus administration and the Ministry of Education.
The culture of giving nicknames was not only done at the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences but at other public universities as well although it was not as consistent as it was at the University of Rwanda.
For example, at Umutara Polytechnic University, new students in 2010 were called ‘Wibyihererana’ after introduction of a call pack promotion by Telecom Company TIGO, which was recently acquired by Airtel.
The 2009/2010 intake at Kigali Institute of Education was called Abadage, after frosty relations between Rwanda and Germany at the time. The relations between the two countries are now good.
The 2015 intake was called ‘Abahanya’ was one of the different Ubudehe categories which meant someone was very poor, however those names were changed since they didn’t give any dignity or value to Rwandans.
This year’s intake was called “Ibiryabarezi” referring to the proliferation of slot machines which were later banned after being misused by people in rural areas.
Nick names banned
Mike Karangwa, the Director of Communication at University of Rwanda said the nick names were banned as they undermined students’ values.
“All students have the same name of Intagamburuzwa, a name that is given to them after Itorero, a step that all students have to pass through at the end of secondary school,” he said.
“Besides, it’s to prepare them to be patriotic so that they can positively contribute to the development of the nation”.
WHAT FORMER STUDENTS SAY ABOUT THE NICKNAMES
Christophe Hitayezu, 2011-2014
My intake was called Ibigarasha, no one among us felt offended as everyone in the campus had at one point been given a nickname.
Olivier Hirwa, University of Rwanda’s College of Sciences and Technology 2008-2011
Naming intakes didn’t exist in our campus, but I think it’s not good. People are different, one can find it funny to be given a nickname, but another can take it as an insult.
Ange de la Victoire Dusabemungu, 2009-2012
The names differentiate and unite us at the same time. For me, I feel I belong to a broad group of ‘Abavangarayi’ and everywhere I meet them, we feel like we have something which connects us.
You can’t understand how good you feel when you sit with your colleagues talking about those old moments and the roots of your nickname at the university, it was good. Sometimes we do great things together as ‘Abavangarayi’.
Besides, these names are from national and international history, it’s a way of recalling what happened at a certain time.