If you’re planning to undergo initiation in the December holidays, you must visit your local clinic now – during the September break – the Department of Health says
Omiselwe ulwaluko – those who intend undergoing initiation this summer season – must check into their local clinic this September school holiday for a complete health check. This is a new rule introduced by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. It’s an extra measure to ensure that boys admitted to initiation schools in the Province have been treated for health problems that could otherwise put their safety at risk.
Initiation co-ordinator for the Department Makhi Mka explained the new rules to Grocott’s Mail.
“There was a Special Provincial Initiation Task Team Meeting in Port Elizabeth on 22 August,” Mka said. “So far the Customary Male Initiation Practice Act has stipulated first that boys must be 18, must register at their local clinic and must submit there to a full health screening before they are allowed to enrol at a circumcision school.
“All of that is still the case,” Mka said. “But now they must also receive a full health screening at the clinic three months ahead of the initiation season – that means now, during the coming September school holidays.”
This was to detect early signs of illness, Mka explained. “What happens is a boy goes to the clinic today and says, ‘On Sunday I want to be in the bush.’
“But if the boy has an infection that needs treatment, a course of antibiotics is usually seven days. If the boy has already gone to the bush, he’s not in a position to finish the course and that’s a problem.
“The new ruling is that boys must be examined three months before they intend going for initiation, and again 14 days before admission to initiation school. The traditional, surgeon, traditional and nurse and the boy’s parent or guardian must be there.
“A traditional surgeon may only accept a boy who has complied with this and can show them his certificate.”
The EC Health Department’s Grahamstown District demarcation includes both Makana and Ndlambe.
There are six initiation schools in Makhanda, and 13 in total including the surrounding areas of Alicedale, Fort Brown, Coombs, Seven Fountains, Salem, Riebeeck East and Radway Farm.
“Here in Makhanda, a school contains several mabhuma (huts),” Mkha said. “In rural areas, it may be a large hut housing as many as 50 boys.”
Training for traditional surgeons and nurses in the Department of Health’s Grahamstown District (Makana and Ndlambe) will be on 9 and 10 October and 30 traditional surgeons – 15 each from Makana and Ndlambe – will be trained.
The date for the launch of the initiation season will be announced by the House of Traditional Leaders. “It will always be during the school holidays because schoolgoing boys are their main target group,” Mkha said.
As per the Act, the safety and wellbeing of initiates is managed within local municipalities. In Makana Municipality the Local Initiation Forum is chaired by Ward 2 Councillor Ramie Xonxa, who every year draws together local representatives of the departments of Education, Social Development, Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Home Affairs, the South African Police and NGOs. This forum visits initiation schools in the municipal area ahead of the season, and monitors them while the initiates are in the bush.