How education calendar interrupted season of circumcision

Young initiates of Abang'ayo sub tribe of Wanga community sing and dance at Matungu cultural area in Kakamega county during celebrations to mark Jamhuri day on December 12, 2020. [Benjamin Sakwa]

The changes in the education calendar that were occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic have interrupted initiation rites among the Kalenjin community.

Previously, circumcision was conducted during the nearly two-month-long December holiday, which gave boys enough time in seclusion.

Now parents have little option but to take their children who are of age through the traditional rite of passage during this seven-week holiday before schools re-open in the last week of April.

Learners had a one-week holiday in December last year, while this year's academic programme is scheduled to run till the end of the year with seven-day breaks.

But holding the ceremonies in March comes with an additional financial burden to parents, with many busy preparing for the planting season.

They now have the added burden of ensuring that the initiates' needs are catered for while preparing for the reopening of schools.

Nandi Kaburwo Council of Elders chairman Benjamin Kitur said circumcision of boys normally takes place in December after the harvest season.

"Most parents take their children through the rite of passage when they have plenty of food from a bumper harvest. They can host visitors and also celebrate the circumcision of their children. But since the education calendar has changed, parents have no option but to have the custom in March,” Mr Kitur told The Standard.

Mr Kitur, who is also the chairman of the wider Kalenjin Myoot Council, added: “The culture has not changed and ought to be respected. Most parents are facing financial challenges at the moment but those who can afford to have their boys circumcised can do so. Many boys in Nandi have been circumcised after the conclusion of the KCPE exam.”

Mr Sammy Businei, a Nandi resident, said, "My son failed to go through the rite in December due to the short holiday. We now have to take advantage of the ongoing March and April school break."

He continued, "March is a difficult period since it is a season to plant long-rain crops. Schools will also require fees for the first term. The cost of fuel has skyrocketed as fertiliser prices hit over Sh6,000, but we have to struggle to meet our needs.

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