Koma rites good news
IT IS that time of year when certain communities send their children for initiation, the rite of passage into manhood.
The long-standing practice is one of the cultural rites that several African communities continue to uphold as part of their traditions.
Initiation or lebollo or koma, as often referred to in Sotho-speaking communities, is regarded as an important stage of development in African youth.
Part of its importance is that if practised properly it also has the health benefits of protecting the initiates against sexually transmitted infections.
But this tradition has in the recent past been bedevilled by bad publicity spawned by the number of deaths at bush initiation schools.
The main cause of the headache was the flux of greedy operators who saw a chance in koma to make a quick buck.
Year in, year out provinces like Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and the northern most parts of Gauteng, where the practice is most prevalent, would return ever increasing death tolls at the close of the initiation season.
On average 70 young men lose their lives to such mass circumcisions every year, with most of the fatalities recorded in Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Many more initiates suffer unspeakable injuries, in some instances penile amputation - scarring them for the rest of their lives.
We therefore welcome efforts such as those reported in this newspaper yesterday that authorities have taken more than a keen interest in the goings-on in bush schools.
We reported that 314 schools were accredited in Limpopo ahead of the official opening of the circumcision season last Friday. Only 23 applications were turned down.
Authorities said they were satisfied that the approved schools met the required standards.
In the province, only chiefs are issued permits to run a koma. Only boys aged 12 or more years are allowed.
Authorities have promised to deal harshly with anybody found to have breached the law by circumventing the rules.
Encouraging indeed. We welcome the government's active involvement in safeguarding the wellbeing of boys undergoing the ritual.
Since its involvement, the numbers tell a story: only two deaths were recorded during the koma season in Limpopo last year. An example worth following by other provinces.