THE INITIATION season looms large against the backdrop of the winter chill as boys ascend to the mountains in search of manhood.
Come next month, boys as young as 12 will be trickling in large numbers to initiations schools. That, however, brings with it some serious challenges as some of the schools operate illegally, thus putting innocent young lives in jeopardy.
The Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders could not confirm the total number of applications received and
approved ahead of the upcoming season.
This year’s initiation rituals take place in the aftermath of the deaths of three children who perished during the previous season.
However, authorities remain noncommittal about the cause of the deaths. It was, nonetheless, revealed in a police report that the young men died as a result of various factors, including feats, natural causes, and substance abuse.
Earlier last week, a workshop by a commission on initiation schools was conducted in a calculated bid to curb fatalities at initiation rituals.
It emerged during the dialogues that there is still no consensus among [initiation] school owners, traditional leaders, healers and civil society on whether initiates should at least be 12 or 16 years old.
Some of the healers and traditional leaders made it clear that they have no idea on the age controversy.
Commission chairperson Professor David Mosoma emphasised that initiation schools in the province should subscribe to the Children’s Act.
He said: “All stakeholders should come together and have a serious dialogue on the age disagreement. In terms of the Children’s Act, the permissible age is 16 years but in this province, there are children aged 12 who are taken to initiation schools. Traditional healers have approached us to propagate the 12 years as the basis.”
Mosoma, however, said: “The commission will make sure that structures are put in place to ensure that initiation schools are safe and that initiates return from the mountains alive and well.”
Some of the traditional healers, Anna Baloyi and Matome Mosiri, who operate initiation schools in Mokopane and Ga-Mothapo outside Polokwane, said initiating children over the age of 16 has complications that have dire
However, chairperson of the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders, Kgoshi Malesela Dikgale said in Limpopo, initiation schools were operating within the prescript of the Limpopo Province Circumcision Schools Act of 1996.
Dikgale said: “Over the years, this Act allowed us to initiate children as early as the age of 12 years old. In some areas of the Vhembe region, some initiations would enroll children as young as nine.”
According to Dikgale, there were more than 300 legal initiation schools across the province last year.
Dikgale says they are happy with the smooth running of the initiation process. However, he says the house is still concerned about the proliferation of illegal schools.
Meanwhile, the National House of Traditional Leaders and Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs have set up a task team to monitor initiation schools in an effort to curb fatalities.