After schools closed early this month, posters started being plastered in public spaces in Murang’a advertising for circumcision services.
The target audience are the parents or guardians of boys who sat their KCPE exam last week, and who have one month before they report to secondary schools.
Most of those advertising are church-affiliated, with charges ranging from Sh6,000-Sh10,000 for two weeks away at an initiation camp.
In 2019, the Murang’a County Government urged older men to take the lead in the initiation ceremonies and convalescence following an incident where an initiate was bullied and died in Kandara sub-County.
Peter Warui, a church elder, said they were focused on restoring sanity to the important ceremony by supporting boys brought up by single mothers.
“Before the church came in there were a lot of complications as bullying was the order of the day. The small cubicles were dens of molestation, among other anti-social behaviours,” said Mr Warui.
Kiarie Rugami, another elder, said they had taken a special interest in the initiation process and ‘streamlining the culture’ after it emerged that boys were not been properly guided.
“We are not in conflict with the church in the initiation programme, but in the past three years the elders have played a significant role in taking care of the boy child after years of neglect,” said Mr Rugami.
Stanley Wanjau, an elder from Kandara, said that initiation rites will kick off this week in various camps. “There are teams of elders charged with the responsibility of managing the centres and talking with the young ones.”
Former Murang’a Health Executive Joseph Mbai had directed that all facilities intending to hold the rite be inspected and issued with a compliance certificate.
Murang’a Public Health Officer Muthui Gitonga said new initiation centres must be registered with the Government. They must also include information on clinical officers they have engaged.
“Existing ones are just required to notify the authorities to ensure we have data,” said Mr Muthui.
Elsewhere in Kericho, the seven-week school break has given 53 teenagers a chance to undergo initiation rites to be carried out by Immanuel African Gospel Church (AGC).
The church’s assistant pastor, Pheanson Kirui, said the boys aged between 13-17 years will be circumcised at Abraham’s Tent before going into seclusion for four weeks.
“During the period, the initiates will be mentored and undertake courses such as ‘Understanding The Role Of A Man in 21st Century’, ‘Understanding A Man’s Purpose’ and ‘Importance of Education’, said Pastor Kirui. “A new course ‘Understanding Mental Issues’, has been added to the programme.”
Litein Mission hospital Executive Elijah Terer said the health facility had not started conducting the surgical procedure following Covid-19 disruptions.
“The programme will resume once the country goes back to the old school calendar. This would mean December next year,” said Dr Terer.
Religious leaders in Bomet also said they will take advantage of the school break to circumcise boys.
Bomet Pastors Association chairman Felix Korir said, “December traditionally is the period for initiation but the coronavirus outbreak altered our calendar. We have no option but to encourage parents to take advantage of this long holiday.”
Elsewhere, hundreds of boys aged between 10 and 18 are expected to undergo circumcision in western Kenya later in the year.
Elders from Bungoma and Kakamega said the ritual, which is performed every August, will go on as planned despite the General Election being held at the same time.
“We shall soon have a major consultative meeting to agree on the exact date we shall start circumcising the boys,” said Sinino Omukolongolo, the chairman of circumcisers in Bungoma County.
Speaking to The Standard on phone yesterday, Mr Omukolongolo said the circumcisers have received training on how to conduct the exercise in a safe and secure manner. “We have been meeting doctors who have been sensitising circumcisers across the nine sub-counties of Bungoma. We also have our tools of trade.”According to Mr Omukolongolo, nothing will stop the rite of passage from going ahead as planned.
“We can only shelve the rituals when there is war or disease outbreak. The elections will run concurrently with the circumcision. The boys usually undergo the cut between 4am and 8am. There will be plenty of time left for the people to go and cast their ballots,” he said.
But Western Region Director of Education Stephen Barongo said the government will not allow the rituals to interfere with the school calendar.
“The county has many communities with diverse cultural practices. If we were to allow them to interfere with our curriculum, no learning would take place,” Mr Barongo told The Standard on phone yesterday.
According to the director, it is up to the communities to adjust to the national educational programmes and not the other way round.
“We will expect all children to be in school and have the circumcision rituals put on hold,” said Mr Barongo.
Mr Omukolongolo said his committee would deliberate on the matter and agree on the way forward. He said the Covid-19 pandemic had almost scuttled the rituals in 2020 “but we engaged the government and the exercise went on as usual.”
The circumcisers appealed to the county and national governments to support the exercise.
“We would like both governments to allocate funds for cultural activities, including traditional circumcision. Sometimes we circumcise orphans who cannot afford medication and they need to be assisted with food, blankets and medicine after undergoing the cut.
“We have a bank account through which the funds can be channeled towards assisting the needy boys. Assistance given through the culture office never reaches the intended beneficiaries because officers divert the resources for other uses,” claimed said Mr Omukolongolo.
[Boniface Gikandi, Nikko Tanui, Gilbert Kimutai and Juliet Omelo]