WITH the aim of preserving the Xhosa tradition and also educating young men on manhood, the School of Initiation in Prieska has launched a crowd-funding initiative that aims to cover the costs of an initiation celebration for young men who are unable to do so from their own pockets.
The initiative is the brainchild of eight committee members attached to the initiation school and is based on the foundation of “Ubuntu” (humanity).
The chairperson of the committee, Sipho Blaauw, said the committee, with the assistance of various funders, covered the initiation celebration costs of eight initiates during a joint celebration on October 7.
“We witnessed so many violent fights between young men in our community where the centre of the fight would be over who had been initiated. Those who have been initiated would usually make remarks against those who have not yet been initiated. We then decided to take a closer look at this problem as we realised we could not just sit back and watch this become a trend,” said Blaauw.
“We realised that the youngsters who had not yet been initiated were unable to do so as they did not have the financial resources to do so. One has to bear in mind that the initiation process, up until the homecoming celebration, is a very costly process. Parents have to plan and budget for the passage to manhood for their sons, the same way they budget for the possible wedding of their daughters. Our Province and town are plagued by high unemployment and many households are not able to carry the bill of the initiation process, which costs several thousand rand.”
Blaauw said the aim of the crowd-funding initiative is to also address the various social-ills plaguing the community.
“This is not merely about asking for money or other resources in order to have a celebration. Many young men are raised in single-parent households without the presence of a father or a positive father figure. Some young men are raised by single mothers and do not have any male role-models to show them what it means to be a man.
“As part of the initiation process, initiates are isolated from the community and made to stay in the mountain. Only men are allowed to have access to them during that time. The older men and those who have been through the initiation process during that period get an opportunity to talk openly to the young initiates and teach them about exactly what it means to be a man.
“These young men are the future fathers and husbands we will have in our society. We need to instil positive qualities in them. Many of the problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, that the youth are struggling with are caused by their battle with issues of identity. Many yearn for a sense of belonging.
“As older men, we then stand in the gap of the absent or deceased father. We walk the journey into manhood with the young men and that also gives them a sense of belonging as well as that there is someone who is leading them during the process.
“The passage to manhood is like a cleansing and healing process that our young men undergo. Once you reach the homecoming celebration, you are welcomed back as a man and not as the boy you were when you went to the mountain.”
Blaauw said the committee, with the help of local businesses and other community members, was able to make the celebration a memorable one for the group of young men.
“Our initial target was to assist 23 young men from disadvantaged backgrounds. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, we had to size the number down to eight men. However, the homecoming ceremony would not have been possible without the assistance from the funder we managed to secure.
“Currently, we are not getting any assistance from the government, although we are registered under the Northern Cape Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affair (Coghsta).
“We are hoping to grant this opportunity to every disadvantaged young man as finances should not be a reason why some are excluded,” Blaauw concluded.