Winter is the time initiation schools run and in the Eastern Cape it is a time of worry for many because of the health risks involved.
In some areas boys do come back from initiation school alive, and some end up having to have their genitals amputated because of infection following incorrect circumcision procedures. Illegal initiation schools contribute to this problem.
The Department of Health has rules and regulations about initiation that must be followed to ensure the continued health of boys who enter the schools.
A boy must be 18 years of age to enter an initiation school, and the full involvement of the parents is expected. The young men are required to have a medical check-up by an appointed medical practitioner before they are circumcised. This is to check that they are fit and healthy, and have no sexually transmitted infections including HIV and Aids.
The check-up also aids boys who have other chronic illnesses to carry on taking their prescribed treatments during initiation, according to doctor’s orders.
In the year since the last initiation season, the Department of Health has been teaching people about the things that need to be considered to keep the young men healthy.
They have made it clear that unregistered initiation schools, chiefs and village headmen are not excempt from the laws. Chiefs and headmen have to sign a form to give the go-ahead for a boy to be initiated. This form is an assurance that the chief is aware of the pending initation, that the parents have been acknowledged and that the boy’s identification papers have been checked to see that he is 18.
Not complying to the department’s regulations is breaking the law. OurHealth/Health-e News Service
Tandeka Hlongwane is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape.