Back from initiation school

Nokubonga Yawa
Most Xhosa and Sotho boys in the Western Cape will go for their initiation during the festive season. We spoke to two.

In many cultures, boys have to go through an initiation ceremony to become recognised as men. In Judaism 13-year-old boys have a barmtizvah. In Xhosa and Sotho culture, the initiation process takes place in a remote area, referred to as "the bush" or "mountain" and includes circumcision. The Xhosa initiation ceremonies have been controversial because many boys get hospitalised and there are numerous reports of botched circumcisions.

Wonga Juliwe, who is Xhosa, is 21 years old and from Khayelitsha. He went to initiation school in December. Juliwe says he was worried when he went but once everything was done on the first day, he was then happy to have become a man. “The most stressful part is when you have to go to the clinic and see a doctor before going to the mountain. I had to do an HIV test and check if I don’t have sexually transmitted infections that need to be treated before I go. That was really stressful but after I got my results I knew there was nothing to stop me.”

In the past few years there’s been reports about young boys who get sick and sometimes end up losing their lives. Juliwe chose to see a doctor, but many boys don't.

Thuso Molefe, who is Sotho, is 17 years old and also from Khayelitsha. He decided not to go to the clinic. Molefe says it is against his culture for a boy to go to the clinic before going for initiation. "Our parents takes us to a traditional healer to get something that will keep us strong during our stay in the mountain,” he said. Nevertheless, Molefe believes it would be a good thing to have gone to a doctor, despite his parents' decision.

Interestingly, Molefe also told Groundup that his parents decided not to follow the Sotho tradition on circumcision. Instead they took their children to be circumcised in the hospital. So on some aspects tradition is not being followed. “Having a [medical] circumcision shouldn’t be an issue. Times have changed. In our time we are facing lot of challenges such as HIV. We do get educated about these issues, but sometimes it’s hard to pass the message to our elders,” said Molefe.


Submitted by Sibusiso on

Im a 18 year old man and i went to the mountain and tought how to behave as a man...initiation has been our culture for many years why do we have to stop now?have we ever as black intruded in white tradition this is bull lets us continue do our culture

Submitted by calvin on

i agree we mst continue but why do u call others izinkwekwe even if they have done male circumicision at the clinic or hospital we are not intruded but we the 1's who lyk things be specific

Submitted by Maxine on

I agree if it!s important for you to go to the bush as a black male, that's your right. But what worries me is that when things go wrong then suddenly it's expected of western doctors and western medicine, knowledge and culture to fix rotten penises and save lives. One minute your traditions are your business but when it suits, then suddenly it becomes "white" man's problem to solve. I also know that young Xhosa women in the cities know longer see their male peers as men just because they've been to the bush: they are far more impressed with education, wealth, job status etc ie traditionally" western " attributes. So perhaps we all need to accept that things are changing, and we need to be more open - minded about " tradition ", whatever our culture may be.

Submitted by Akhona assegai on

No guys lets not steriotype other pupils culture if u dnt wanna go to the mountain dan dnt if ya wanna jst go

Submitted by C'ya on

Hey guys im a man because i went to the initiation school and have alot of value. People talk bad abt it as if they went and why do you alwys talk about the negative so if u dnt wana go dnt go n if u wnt 2 b a man go

Submitted by unathi phike on

its really funny that people that complain about going to the initiation schools are the ones that didnt and will never go. hey i thought how to behaive as a man of the house and how to respect elders all thanks to the basotho culture and am proud that i did go there now i have 3years since i came back and guys please do go see a doctor before going to the initiation schools and you guys that didnt go please do go so you can stop behaiving like boys when your married

Submitted by jazz. on

Without the removal of foreskin,do you think the mountain would be considered as a place which transforms males from being a boy to a man?Nope,either way..I did my circumcision at hospital and still respect everyone regardless if you did it or not.

Submitted by unathi on

you people are stupit

look am a sotho man i did go to the bush but going to the bush its not about cutting you skin so please stop putting your nouses where they dont belong