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Updated 21 June 2016

Mothers say 'no' to bush initiation schools

Limpopo mothers say that we are all living in a world with various diseases, and sending their kids to bush schools could result in them coming back sick.

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Rural Vhembe mothers in Limpopo have refused to send their sons to bush initiation schools this year saying they valued their sons' lives more than they did the age-old tradition.

More amputations and death

The mothers said there were no guarantees that their sons would come back in good health – or alive. They said they would rather take their sons to a medical professional at a clinic or hospital to get circumcised.

From this coming Friday (June 25) initiation schools in the Vhembe area will start to operate for a period of three to four weeks. During this time young boys are encouraged to participate in the initiation.

Read: Concern over bogus initiation schools

In recent years, this tradition came under the spotlight however as the media reported more amputations and deaths from infections among initiates.

Now some mothers have had enough and said a resounding “no” to sending their sons to the “bush”.

And the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human and Traditional Affairs in Limpopo, Makoma Makhurupetje, has issued a strong warning to initiation school owners not to abduct boys in order to force them to take part in initiation ceremonies.

Professional medical doctor

One mother, Maria Muhanganei, said: “I just wish all the mothers out there would stop sending their boys to the bush initiation schools. It is a risk. We are now living in a world where they are various diseases out there like HIV and sending our kids to the bush schools could result in them coming back sick.”

Read: Circumcision: when tradition kills

Shirley Munyai, a mother of two boys, aged nine and seven, said: “I do not know why some mothers still choose to send their children to the bush schools where they will be exposed to various diseases and even death.

“I will never send my sons to the bush initiation school, mine will go to a professional medical doctor where they will be treated with care,” she said, adding that her sons would get circumcised later this year but not at a bush initiation school.

“I cannot put the health of my boys at risk by sending them to the initiation school. Besides that they won’t get healthy food or a nice place to sleep at night.”

Read: Circumcision on the rise at Africa’s only specialised urology hospital

Illegal bush initiations school came under the spotlight in recent years because of botched circumcisions that caused the death of boys who went there hoping to return home as men. This year the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders turned down 51 out of 376 applications for the 2016 initiation school period due to non-compliance.

Medical male circumcision, done correctly, reduces the risk of HIV infection by about 60 percent. The World Health Organisation also recommends medical male circumcision as a strategy to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

In Mpumalanga, an innovative group of young doctors and traditional leaders have come together to find a solution to these problems, to ease parents anxieties. Watch this Health-e News video report on the Ingoma Forum and their work to reduce initiation deaths in the province. - Health-e News

Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.

 
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