Polokwane - The Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders on Monday revealed that one of two initiates who died at an initiation school in Limpopo last year was an asthmatic patient, and the death could have been prevented.
The government committee on male initiation affairs has said the boy died because he did not take his medication along with him to the school.
Speaking during a media briefing in Polokwane, the chairman of the House of Traditional Leaders Malesela Dikgale and the working committee Hosi Mdavula Chauke argued that thorough medical screening was a prerequisite before initiates were admitted to schools where they undergo the traditional rite of passage to manhood.
“Two people were lost last year, one of them was asthmatic – had that person been screened, the death could have been prevented,” said Dikgale.
“We have discovered that we must tighten some of these rules, and one of them is pre-checking by a medical practitioner is very important. If a person has been checked and related diseases are uncovered, that person must take tablets along to the initiation schools,” said Dikgale.
The exact location of the school where the boy died was not revealed, in keeping with traditional custom.
The committee expressed concern that operators and parents continued to ignore the guidelines that could help reduce deaths in initiation schools. The schools have come under pressure to perform ritual circumcisions in line with modern medical practice after a high number of boys have died of infection.
According to the committee, 14,124 initiates graduated to manhood from the school in question in 2015 while two died.
Chauke said to prevent further deaths, the committee was advocating for potential initiates to have a medical certificate from doctors before they are initiated.
“It’s not an easy one, we had a problem of children not sent for pre-health examination screenings and we insisted that this should be done because these days we have various diseases. If you are not doing so and you sent your child [to the school] without medication, he loses his life.”
This year, 325 applications from traditional leaders to perform ritual circumcisions were approved while 20 were turned down after they did not comply with the Amended Initiation School Act of 1996.
Dikgale said bogus initiation schools were driven by greedy people who desired to profit out of the ancient practice.
“The intention is to make money if you have an illegal initiation school and if we remove [the licence] from you obviously you will not make money,” said Dikgale.
Last year, a bogus initiation school was closed and the initiates were moved to the legal initiation school.
“We don’t want to legalise the illegal initiation school,” said Chauke.
Chauke said the operator was found guilty and fined R2,000 by the Bolobedu Magistrate’s Court. “He was 26-years-old and that person was not capable of running an initiation school.”
However, he pointed out that the committee was struggling to monitor and enforce the law at the villages that border Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
“At the moment, some are already running because they follow their own patterns that are not similar to ours.”
Chauke said illegal operators were taking advance of loopholes in the current legislation and new legislation should prevent this.
This year’s initiation season is scheduled to begin on Friday until July 18.