Re-imagining the role of initiation schools in shaping men in our society and the perception of the passage to manhood in response to mentorship.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

Insight and views on the role played by initiation schools in shaping men in our society and the perception of the passage to manhood in response to mentorship. Looks at how mentorship has influenced the character development of young initiates during the rite of passage to manhood.

This insight sought to look into the role played by circumcision (ulwaluluko) share views and perceptions of our society. Ulwaluluko is a traditional rite practiced by amaXhosa most in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Ulwaluluko is better known as isiko lokwaluka in isiXhosa. The concept refers not only to the act of circumcision that occurs during the initiation ritual but the entire process a boy goes through in observing this practice.


Ulwaluko is performed in the belief that it will transform boys into accountable and responsible citizens of the society who are fully committed and dedicated to tenets and standards of nation-building. All amaXhosa boys are expected to undergo this custom to be considered men. Failure to go to the initiation school usually end results in social stigma. While the rite of passage to manhood holds all these perceptions, does it truly serve the intended purpose?


Initiation schools are cultural schools that young males attend to be taught the values, principles, hardships, respect, and accountability within their cultural tradition. Do the schools hold the same standards in shaping men to be better leaders of society, in my opinion, no, the schools do not serve the same standards at all. With the resurgence of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa, a can of worms has once been opened again to fathom the cause of the toxic deeds of some men. Some have attributed men's abusive ways to the teachings they receive in the initiation schools they attended where boys enter the rite of passage to manhood.


My objective is not to trash out the whole institution but reimagine its role. A real solution can be found in learning and development. Why not introduce a curriculum at initiation schools? I understand very clearly that we cannot blame the initiation school on the basis of what the initiate does after. My opening paragraph probably puts a smile across the faces of those who are anti-Xhosa initiation. Sadly this is not a trash communique, I too, am a proud product of these initiation schools and I view them with high regard as a grooming ground for boys.


In all seriousness, why does this amaXhosa circumcision rite always warrant such trenulous injudicious howls from western souls? Well, people fear what they do not understand and can only cry fowl until it is all gone. for instance, many fail to grasp that there is nothing wrong with this practice. What's wrong is the idea of the individual (khanki) to infest their personal ideals which are not in line with the endorsement of good leaders of society.


Traditional Xhosa male circumcision rites (ulwaluko) needs to be understood within a highly complex socio-sexual context involving violence, family breakdown, resource scarcity, and inter-generational conflict. Ulwaluko may be viewed as a religious and sacred practice, has been rationalized as a mechanism for the maintained order, and is believed to play a role in the prevention of HIV. The manhood status achieved after the ritual accords men's power and authority over women and uncircumcised men, as such it is important for amaXhosa to be circumcised.


If we explore the cultural values relating to circumcision in a changing society and how Xhosa individuals weighed up the risks and benefits within their broader community context. Surely, by now we have seen that the learning and development in our initiation schools no longer need a teacher (ikhankatha) that will continuously feed the minds of initiates with what is known as isidyani/isisdoda, which proves to promote the unruly behaviour in young men who just came back from the initiation school. if it does not endorse a good cause it must be curled out.


Say now, we look at the revolution of ulwaluko with regard to how it shaped men in the olden days. That will accord us a critical view on what we are missing, what changed, and how has society evolved. This is to help us understand what is it that we are doing wrong in order to develop the practice to suit today's standards. What we witness today is tantamount to anti-revolutionary as the teachers (amakhankatha) themselves, their education on the matter and in general is based on the socio-economic standing. if we look at the inter-generational gap in the custodianship of ulwaluko. Our brothers whom the family appoints as the teachers (amakhankatha), what they teach boys in the mountain is a foreign language to our father. These teachers do not know what it is they are supposed to teach these boys when they themselves do not know to begin with. Curriculum development is much needed on this matter, after all, it is a school, is it not?


Submitted: November 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Lubabalo Tatase. All rights reserved.

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