By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
27 young men were treated in Gauteng health facilities in 2013 and 2014 for injuries or illness caused by initiation schools.
This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
One death was reported over this period, and others were treated for assault, anaemia, dehydration, septic penis and poisoning.
Eleven cases were treated in 2013, and 16 in 2014.
According to Mahlangu, the department is working closely with CONTRALESA through the Gauteng AIDS Council to ensure that good medical practice is maintained at initiation schools.
This includes encouraging initiation principals to partner with contracted NGOs to perform Medical Male Circumcision.
Furthermore, Environmental Health Practitioners are providing accredited pre-site inspection reports prior to opening of initiation schools.
Traditional leaders are also requested to provide a list of recognised traditional surgeons and headmen to avoid bogus schools, and are provided with contact numbers of Emergency Medical services linked to a nearby health facility.
The department is doing good work in this area, but illegal schools are the real problem, such as the one that was raided by police in Meadowlands, Soweto.
While injuries from initiation schools in Gauteng are thankfully much lower than in the Eastern Cape, the battle against illegal schools needs to be stepped up.
The cultural virtues of initiation are best preserved with safe medical procedures and safeguards against abuse.