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27 June 2019

Limpopo parents losing faith in initiation schools, opting for medical circumcisions over concerns of hygiene, safety – and cost

An important rite of passage in many South African cultures, parents weigh in about circumcision performed at initiation school versus professional medical procedure.

While initiation schools are still in full swing in Limpopo, many parents have lost confidence in the traditional way of circumcision because of concerns about hygiene and safety. 

These parents have opted for professional medical circumcision instead.

A healthier environment

Initiation, "koma" in Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho), is a traditional rite of passage whereby boys become men.

It has been practised in the province for many years, but has received criticism because of unhealthy and unhygienic environments and for becoming overly commercialised. 

Around 23 learners from Thabeng Primary School in Topanama Village have undergone Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) since the winter school break began as parents seek a healthier environment for circumcision to take place.

Sammy Rampedi from Lenyenye prefers medical circumcision over initiation school.

He explained that his choice is based on health issues and the commercial aspect of traditional initiation.

“I understand that initiation schools are part of our culture, but they have become highly commercialised. It is expensive to take your child there. Last year you had to pay at least R1 500, which becomes a huge problem when you are not working. I’m unemployed, so where would I get the money? I took my son and nephew to a doctor for free for the same thing that would have cost R3 000,” said Rampedi.

Wounds may get infected

“Another thing is hygiene and health. The initiation school environment is not healthy, and they don’t take care of the children like doctors do.”

He said that wounds may get infected, which can lead to complications, a risk he's not willing to take. On the other hand, Selina Mokhabukhi from Dan village said she doesn’t have problem with her 10-year-old son going to initiation school.

“I know it’s expensive but I don’t have problem with my son going to initiation school, although I’m concerned about the health aspect of the environment. I can take him for medical circumcision, but if he decides to go to initiation school, I won’t stand in his way. I'm still very worried about what kind of disease he might come [back] with, though,” she said. 

Dr Joseph Mankoani is the general practitioner at the Letaba Cross Medical Centre in Mokgoloboto village. He said that VMMC is performed in a controlled zone to avoid infections. The centre has operated on 150 boys, all under 12-years-old, so far.

“We do it in a well-controlled environment. We do circumcision thoroughly and we try by all means to control the [possibility of] infection as much as possible,” said Dr Mankoani.

The Departments of Health, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Human Settlement have pledged to work hand-in-hand to monitor health conditions of initiates.

– Health-e News. 

Image credit: iStock

 
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