/ 28 November 2005

Teenager dies at circumcision school

One boy has died and eight others were admitted to Mthatha general hospital after they fell ill at a circumcision school in the area, the Eastern Cape Health Department said on Monday.

”When we got there on Sunday night one of the boys had already died. Two are in a critical condition and the others are stable,” said spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo. They are aged between 18 and 20.

Health department officials went to investigate the school at Link village outside Mthatha after being informed by community members of possible problems.

”It’s a legal school. The man in charge is registered, but failed to report on time that the boys were sick. There is a possibility that he will be charged with negligence,” Kupelo said.

Police have opened an inquest docket.

It was the first death since the start of the circumcision season two weeks ago.

In a separate incident, police and health officials would on Monday continue their search for a group of 19 boys believed to be part of an illegal initiation school hiding in the bush near Flagstaff.

”Police and community members spent the whole day on Saturday searching for the boys. They started the search at 10am using a helicopter. It was called off at 3.45pm due to bad weather. One of the boys is reported to be in ill health.”

Kupelo said that since Friday last week six people had been arrested in different parts of the province for ”unlawful circumcisions”.

The department appealed to community members to take responsibility for the schools in their area and to report problems.

”We want it to be a communal thing. During the June/July season 23 boys died in the bush.”

About half those deaths were in the Libode area, east of Mthatha.

Of the 23 who had died, 15 succumbed to illnesses such as meningitis and pneumonia. At least five boys had their genitals amputated following botched circumcisions.

Kupelo said boys going to circumcision schools needed to be sent for medical check-ups to make sure they were in good health before undergoing the ritual.

”They are exposed to bad weather conditions and to dehydration. According to the traditional way the boys are denied water for the first eight days. If they are not healthy enough there is definitely a risk.”

Those in the province requiring assistance or wanting to report illegal schools could call the circumcision health line on 08000-323-64. – Sapa