Image courtesy of Times Live.
The season of initiation schools is upon us once again. According to the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs in Limpopo, the initiation schools will commence on 19 June 2015 and end on 20 July 2015. Interestingly, 20 July is only two days after the Nelson Mandela International Day, a day on which citizens around the world are encouraged to play their part in taking action and also inspiring change in communities. On this day, South Africans from all walks of life are expected to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to contribute towards taking action and inspiring the change that the late former president, Nelson Mandela, stood for.
Turning our focus to initiation schools, the Mopani District Municipality, which Maruleng is part of, had 60 initiation schools last year, according to the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders. Initiation continues to be the responsibility of traditional leaders. According to Chief Eric Chauke, the chairperson of the Working Committee on Initiation Schools, the House of Traditional leaders conducted a workshop for all Senior Traditional Leaders who qualified for initiation schools permits. One hopes that in Maruleng, the municipality where I come from, the traditional authorities will continue to work in collaboration with the Department of Health and other relevant stakeholders, to prevent loss of life and exposing initiates to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and many other diseases they could suffer from while they are there.
It is also hoped that government will do its best to clamp down on illegal initiation schools. Illegal initiation schools contribute to the increasing number of children who are admitted to hospital at the end of every initiation period. This gives one an impression that without the involvement of important stakeholders including the Department of Health, many initiates could die and this could have a negative impact on initiation.
Our communities are defined by their cultures. Government should also be commended for ensuring that initiation is practiced in line with the laws of South Africa.
I like the hype associated with initiation schools. Who does not know that parents, including those who live in abject poverty or with no sustainable no source of income, go an extra mile in ensuring that their children attend initiation schools? Truth is that initiation schools require one to have adequate funds to pay for; the cost of initiation, feeding the initiates and also to pay *baditi (people who take care of the initiates).
There is nothing wrong with our parents encouraging their children to participate in initiation schools. But there is something wrong when parents do not play their part in encouraging their children to continue schooling, especially after they have graduated from initiation. If the latter was the situation in our communities, we would not be having a situation where the majority of baditi are school drop-outs. Initiation school alone cannot prepare a child to become a responsible adult in any community. Formal schooling is key to shaping the future of children. Don’t get me wrong, all I am saying is that education is above everything and there is no future without education.
My worry is that school drop-outs will not making any contribution to the development of our communities or the growth of our local economies in South Africa. It is interesting to note that most baditi are still young and should be going to school when the initiation schools close on 20 July. Maybe what parents do not know is that when these children are not pushed to study, whether they have been through initiation or not, they will struggle to survive in life. Besides, South Africa is a globalised country in which opportunities are increasingly becoming available to people with formal education. When parents motivate their children to attend initiation schools, they must also encourage them to view education as the necessary foundation to a better life. I’m saying this people I have seen parents who fail to buy school uniform and/or to pay school fees for their children but afford to a lot of money on initiation only.
I would like to also challenge our traditional leaders to utilise initiation schools as a platform to encourage the initiates to return to school after the initiation. This will go a long way in enabling them to also play a part in inspiring young people to take education, which President Nelson Mandela described as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” seriously.
It will be difficult for our country to realise the United Nations Millennium Development Goa1 2, of ensuring that the country realise the dream of a universal primary education ahead of this year’s deadline, if young people are not encouraged to study. It will difficult to realise the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if young people are illiterate. In addition, South Africa’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030 could only translate into real change only if the country’s population has formal education.
How many our traditional leaders played a part in encouraging children to take education seriously? The fact is that lack of education is linked to the escalating illiteracy rates and other socio-economic ills including crime, poverty and unemployment. If I were a traditional leader, I would not feel proud to lead a community in which many people are illiterate. This is because it is impossible to tackle some of the socio-economic hardships that are holding back our communities in terms of development without education. Traditional leaders should know that education is the only reliable tool communities need to overcome all the developmental challenges.
I also challenge parents to make the same sacrifices they make when taking their children to initiation schools, for education. We all have the responsibility to contribute towards upholding initiation and we also have the right to ensure that our children go to school. In doing so, we must acknowledge that our failure to inspire our children to study could contribute to under-development within our communities in the long-term.
As our initiates graduate on 20 July, we should remind them to take action (go to school) and inspire change (acquire education, a necessary tool required by everyone to take South Africa’s development agenda forward). We should remind the initiates that while they re-join the communities as young adults, nothing will make them complete adults for as long as they are not learned. I have no doubt that this will give every Nelson Mandela International Day and our democracy a meaning going forward.
- Butjwana Matibidi is heading SANGONeT’s Civil Society Information Programme. He writes in his personal capacity.