Is it self-hatred?

By Drum Digital
02 December 2014

Reader Mmeshi Kgaphola asks why successful initiation schools are not highlighted in the media

I’m from the Sekhukhune region in Limpopo, where the culture of attending traditional initiation schools is still highly practised by male and female youngsters in large numbers every year.  In a nutshell, the enrolment and graduation of initiates is still conducted in a safe, procedural manner by traditional leaders who’ve been bestowed with the responsibility to operate the schools.

Hence there are usually none or, at the least, isolated negative reports of injuries or deaths. I remain dumbfounded by the persisting senseless injuries and deaths occurring in some parts of the country.  It saddens me that those blatantly evil and barbaric acts are being perpetuated in the guise of culture.  We should all stop such callous, cruel and inhumane behaviour. This is totally unheard of in my area. I’m also shocked by some media’s tendency, conveniently, to use these unfortunate yet isolated incidents as a genuine reflection of what is occurring as a whole in initiation schools. I believe they’re using it to advocate for the demise of this cultural practice.

TO those calling for the end of this cultural practice I ask: which alternative path(s) can be used to teach teenagers about their identity, customs and traditions? By suggesting the end of this practice aren’t we infringing on the fundamental rights of others? It equally baffles me that the removal of the foreskin takes centre stage while the main aim of the coming-of-age initiative is overlooked.  The prime purpose of this cultural practice is to instil cultural values, a sense of pride and belonging, moral obligation, customary duties, and self-reliance. In as much as the reporting of injuries and fatalities is appreciated, the criticism should be based on patriotism with the intention to effect a positive change, not to overthrow the custom. Why can’t the media report – with the same amount of zeal – about initiation schools that operate legally, procedurally and successfully? Is it because the intention is to portray this cultural practice in a negative light?  Why is it that the relevance of the components of African culture is always questioned? It all boils down to African self-hatred, I believe – the imperfections and the weaknesses of African culture, customs and traditions are always paraded in public domains only to be vilified and mocked while foreign lifestyle concepts are eagerly embraced.

WE witness this kind of hypocrisy almost every day. There’s no culture or lifestyle that is perfect. The imperfections of traditional initiation schools are mainly the result of moral decay emerging in all aspects of life whereby the making of profit takes precedence over human welfare.  African culture, customs and traditions are deep-rooted in us – we can’t change history – we can only influence the future by acknowledging the impact of the past. Poet Maya Angelou once said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

By Mmeshi Kgaphola

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