Longer holidays can save lives

If the June school holidays were to be lengthened, the number of traditional initiate deaths would decrease.

This is because the time it takes to complete the initiation process is longer than the school break, Kgoshi Setlamoraga Thobejane, general-secretary of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa), said yesterday.

“The June holidays (during which the process takes place) are less than four weeks long. Traditional leaders struggle to complete the process within this time and are getting frustrated,” Thobejane said during a media briefing in Pretoria. “We are asking for the government to help us and make the winter break longer so we have more time.”

He said Contralesa is disturbed by the number of deaths due to initiation processes, known traditionally as koma. According to him the number of deaths in the past nine years has amounted to 250 young men, with Mpumalanga having the highest death rate.

“Life is precious and this was not supposed to happen. The deaths of these young men concern us a lot as they were supposed to be our future.”

Thobejane suggested that the other three school holidays be shortened so South African pupils can have a seven-week-long winter holiday. “We don’t want to disrupt the learning of our children, but we don’t have enough time. The Christian holiday in December is long and no one complains. We need to respect that we live in a multi-cultural society. We also want a longer holiday to accommodate us.”

Gombani Mabela, Contralesa’s natural treasurer, said initiation schools are a part of SA’s culture. “We will not do away with it. It is our social-economic right, but we have to do away with the issues. We need the government to assist us to keep the culture without more loss of lives.”