Why Sharing a Stomach Creates a Culture of Success

By Tiffany Cunningham & Oniola Day, Sixth-Grade Students, KIPP Metro Atlanta

Funtumfunafu (yes—Fun-Tum-Fu-na-Fu) is the name of a West African Adinkra symbol that represents two crocodiles who share the same stomach. Its translation means, unity for one destiny. This symbol is very important to our daily lives at KIPP Vision Academy as we are all working together as a Team and Family to realize our dream of going to college. Our principal, Mr. Steven Jones, founded KIPP Vision with the goal of combining his interest in African culture with KIPP’s expectations of hard work and high expectations. Before founding KIPP Vision Academy, Mr. Jones was a Dean at KIPP WAYS Academy in Atlanta, where he led a trip to Ghana with a group of eighth-grade students in 2007. That trip inspired him to open KIPP Vision Academy and use the lessons he learned traveling in West Africa to create a school culture based on Funtumfunafu.

At first we could not even pronounce Funtumfunafu much less explain its meaning! We pronounced it as Fume-Tomb-Fume-All-Fume. But after hearing our teachers and principal repeat it day after day and after hearing stories about how the crocodiles survived by sharing the same stomach, we soon became experts at pronouncing and explaining it.

Our school’s values are all from lessons Mr. Jones learned in West Africa. These Ghanian Adinkra values and their symbols line the hallways to our learning villages. We not only pass these symbols on the way to the village, but the teachers and staff at KIPP Vision Academy reinforce them in our classes each day.

Take a tour with us now to learn our KIPP Vision Academy values!

Nkonsonkonson – a link in a chain; represents unity and teamwork. Our school is only as strong as its weakest link, so students must work together to support each other.

For example, if a student is having challenges in a class, he/she is paired with someone who demonstrates strength in that area. Both Visionaries work together until the struggling student gains the knowledge he/she needs to be successful.

Bi-Nki-Bi – two crocodiles biting each other’s tails; represents harmony and respect. Each crocodile has the power to destroy the other, but instead they choose to live harmoniously, out of respect for each other.

We exhibit this by respecting our peers, their property and ourselves.




Aya – a fern; represents diligence and perseverance. The fern is one of the oldest species of plants on the earth and has survived the test of time, just as we can triumph in any challenging situation.

We show diligence by attending a longer school day, week, and year. We work for hours on homework each night, and we complete challenging assignments.


Nyansapo – a knot; represents positive choices.  Pulling the wrong string can unravel the knot but pulling the right one can make it tighter.

We exhibit this value when we choose to make positive choices in challenging situations.



Dono a West African talking drum; represents fun. It is said that when there is a drum, there is a party, and where there is a party, there is FUN!

We have fun in our village meetings, during Friday Celebrations, and on end-of-the-year field trips.



When we exhibit these values, we earn “scholar dollars” on our weekly “paychecks.” We also have the opportunity to join the Funtumfunafu Society. The Funtumfunafu Society is for students who demonstrate leadership, teamwork, and academic excellence. Students are selected by teachers and administrators based on their academic performance, attitude, behavior, and by serving as examples of our values. Members wear a special gold uniform and participate in activities designed to develop leadership skills, including monthly meetings, special lunches, and field trips.

We enjoy having these symbols from West Africa as part of our culture at KIPP Vision Academy. They not only remind us of ways we can be successful but they also remind us of the culture and teachings of other countries. We also know that if we continue to exhibit these values, we just might earn a trip to Ghana at the end of eighth grade!

To learn more about the student experience at KIPP, click here. >