South Africa suspends manhood initiation schools after 20 boys die from botched circumcisions

Nii Ntreh Dec 23, 2019 at 03:00pm

December 23, 2019 at 03:00 pm | News

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Associate Editor

December 23, 2019 at 03:00 pm | News

South African initiation schools have faced criticisms of backwardness in times of modernization. Photo Credit: Mail & Guardian

Several initiation schools have been suspended by South African authorities after several boys died in the last few weeks due to circumcisions which are a part of the initiation process.

The BBC reports that 20 boys have died in that period.

South Africa’s religious and cultural commission has announced that the schools in some areas of the Eastern Cape will close down for a year.

The initiation, known as Ulwaluko in Xhosa, is a set of rites marking the transition of boys into manhood. The boys spend weeks in mountainous areas in harsh conditions.

The annual school sees tens of thousands of boys aged between 15 and 17 live in bushes under extreme methods of sustenance. This training is supposed to prepare the boys into becoming responsible men.

This is not the first time candidates for manhood have died during the process of their preparation.

In December 2017, 16 boys died in Eastern Cape alone at initiation school where boys are also prevented from taking Western medication or risk being stigmatized by their peers.

The boys normally go through the rite in a group and are confined to a hut in the first seven days and restricted from eating certain foods.

The second phase takes between two to three weeks when the boys are looked after by the ikhankatha (a traditional attendant) who takes them through traditional lessons during which the ingcibi (traditional surgeon) surgically removes their foreskins.

Per tradition, no one is supposed to speak of what happens at the initiation schools else they risk being assaulted. The huts and initiates’ possessions are burnt at the end of the ritual and they are given new blankets after they wash down in rivers depending on their location.

They are then called ‘men’ afterward.

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