The chairperson of the Mpumalanga Ingoma Forum, Musa Thugwane, has urged would-be initiates to undergo medical screening first before they go to the initiation schools to help prevent “unnecessary deaths”.
He said medical examination and records would make the job of the health practitioners and the caregivers easier because some of the initiates often suffer from different diseases such as asthma and HIV.
The forum was launched a few years ago by the Mpumalanga Department of Health to oversee the well-being of the initiates.
Thugwane made his call as the initiation school season kicked off in the Mpumalanga Lowveld, which includes Mbombela and the surrounding areas.
Unlike the province’s Highveld region, whose initiation schools were opened last month, the Lowveld region’s schools started to admit initiates a few weeks ago and will run until August. The Highveld region includes towns like Belfast, Middleburg and Emalahleni.
“The screening of young men is essential because it will prevent unnecessary deaths of the initiates. We are appealing to parents to play their part in making sure that their children are safe at the initiation schools. Remember, some of the initiates are suffering from different diseases such as asthma, HIV, and other diseases so when they go to the initiation school having their medical records will make the job of the health practitioners and the caregivers easier,” Thugwane said.
“For example, those who are suffering from Asthma are not supposed to be exposed to a lot of smoke so if the caregivers know it will be easy to manage them. This is a very critical stage of making sure that our children are well taken care of and those who take medication are encouraged to do so accordingly.”
Ntombi Khoza, from Ivory Park in Gauteng province but is originally from Bushbuckridge, shared Thugwane’s sentiment.
In an interview with African Times, Khoza, who has encouraged her 16-year-old son to go to the mountain in the next few days, said she would first take the teenager to the doctor for a medical examination.
“As far as I know him as his mother, he is a healthy child, but you will never know what a doctor might find after checking him. What the chief is saying is true and I believe that all of us who are taking our children to the mountain should take this advice seriously,” said Khoza.
Another parent, Vusi Nkuna, from Shatale also in Bushbuckridge, whose sons were initiated in 2018 said to ensure the safety of the two boys, he took them to a doctor for screening first.
Nkuna said one of the boys was suffering from nasal bleeding and he went to the school to notify the caregivers on how to attend to him, “when the problem occurred as it used to happen more often.
“What I am trying to say is that parents should also disclose sicknesses even if they feel that it does not have a serious impact because you will never know what is going to happen when the child is on the mountain.”
In the past two decades, thousands of boys and young men have died in initiation schools nationwide. More than 700 initiates have died in the Eastern Cape since 2012, according to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and North-West are the main areas where the right of passage is practised.