Boys camp youths instructed on dangers of illegal circumcision

Image: File

Camps for boys that combine fun with serious education on the dangers of illegal, underage initiation could be a vital way of protecting youths from making poor decisions while under peer pressure.

The Eastern Cape continues to be rocked by deaths of initiates, mostly underage and in illegal initiation schools that have mushroomed across the province.

Nkululeko Nxesi, the director of the Man and Boy Foundation (MBF) said that teaching boys of the dangers of illegal initiation, and the beauty of the rite when it is done legally, could help curb the deaths and illegal circumcision of underage boys.

For almost three weeks now, MBF has held a camp in Tsolo with 111 boys, aged between 16 and 17, attending

The camp is free, but the boys must have permission from their parents and traditional leaders.

Every initiation season, MBF organises a boys’ camp, roping in teachers, life orientation trainers, sport coaches, peer educators, youth ambassadors and nurses to train the boys.

Nxesi said the foundation was embarking on a mentorship and empowerment programme where young boys, most of them from Mpondoland, were taken to a camp and taught about children's rights, legal and medical compliance when attending traditional initiation, purity, life skills, the dangers of illegal circumcision, dealing with peer pressure and the dangers of crime.

The teenagers were also involved in a number of sporting activities.

Most of the 25 deaths so far this season happened to underage initiates, some of whom had been illegally circumcised.

In the 2019 winter season, 17 initiates died in the province, while in the 2018 summer season, 21 initiates died.

Nxesi said the purpose of the camp was to protect underage boys from illegal initiation.

“Many boys who get injured or die in traditional initiation schools are underage boys.

“Some of them are kidnapped and abducted to illegal initiation schools, while others go to illegal schools due to peer pressure. This camp is therefore established to protect vulnerable boys against these criminal elements who put their lives at risk.”

The camp helps in preventing traditional initiation injuries and deaths, he said, while boys are also taught positive norms and values, including respecting women and girls.

The camp is conducted every school holiday and targets boys aged between 12 and 17, and coincides with the traditional initiation season.

“This is the age band that is vulnerable to kidnapping and abduction. Some of the boys in this group succumb to peer pressure, drop out of school, and end up attending illegal traditional initiation schools”.

MBF assisted in the rescue of many initiates during this initiation season, with some of them being kept at the foundation’s rescue centres, including one operating from Port St Johns.

Of the 25 initiation deaths so far this season, seven were recorded in Chris Hani district, seven in Amathole, four in OR Tambo, three in Joe Gqabi, two in Alfred Nzo, one in Sarah Baartman and one at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

No fatalities have been recorded in Buffalo City Metro so far this season.  

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