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Coronavirus dashes boys’ hopes of ‘becoming men’
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|Coronavirus dashes boys’ hopes of ‘becoming men’ by Kenyans247(1): Fri 25, December, 2020 09:09am|
Thirteen-year-old Mark Murimi had been looking forward to a great 2020.
He had high hopes of passing his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.
But Murimi also had another dream – getting circumcised.
“I had been looking forward to the rite,” he told the Nation at his parents’ home in Embu.
“I wanted a traditional ceremony just like my cousins in Nyeri did last year. Unfortunately, I had to go to hospital,” the teen said on Wednesday.
Ordinarily, December is a month of song, dance and merry making. It is also a period of physical pain for most teenage boys in Western, Mt Kenya and parts of the Rift valley.
Close to half a million boys in Mt Kenya will have to wait until next year for the key rite as coronavirus ravages the country.
Elders and religious groups announced postponement of the monumental ceremony, saying they did not want to risk more Covid-19 infections.
Set a new date
Cultural groups who oversee the rite say they will set a new date, depending on the reviewed school calendar. The cultural and religious groups preside over the ceremonies every year.
Apart from being circumcised, the boys are given life skills and other teachings.
The elders usually take the initiates to secluded camps, some in Mt Kenya forest, where they undergo the procedure and are told what is demanded of them as young men.
Religious groupings have been holding parallel ceremonies in the last few years.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the elders have discussed and decided that this year’s circumcision ceremonies be postponed to 2021. There is no point putting children at risk,” Kikuyu Council of Elders chairman Wachira wa Kiago said months ago.
The postponement of the ritual also came as a blow to the elders, who have been making a steady comeback in counselling the initiates and passing down cultural teachings.
The boys interviewed said calling off the rite has affected their self-esteem.
They expressed fears of constantly being mocked.
Locals, however, can still take their children to hospital for circumcision. The boys then go home to recover.
That used to be the norm some years ago, but it changed with elders urging locals to take the traditional route.
Elders have asked locals with teenage boys to remain patient as the ceremonies can still be conducted safely in 2021.
“It is not mandatory that boys get circumcised in December or when they have sat their final primary school examination,” Gikuyu Cultural Association leader Kigochi Waimiri told the Nation.
“The most important part of the initiation is instilling discipline and values in the boys. Let them be patient.”
Kiama Kia Ma, an elders’ and cultural group, which has been conducting circumcision in Mt Kenya forest, also called off the ceremony.
Outspan Hospital, Nyeri, in partnership with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa postponed the exercise to April 2021.
Hospital Community Affairs Chairperson Veronica Mwangi said the procedure is dictated by the school calendar.
The programme runs for two weeks, with an average of 250 initiates every year.
“It is difficult to predict the number of initiates we will deal with because nobody can tell what the Covid-19 infection curve will be,” Ms Mwangi said.
The Rites of Passage Committee in the region says it liaised with schools and agreed that the boys can only be circumcised after sitting their KCPE examination.
Ms Mwangi said the church would have had a hard time accommodating the initiates if the ceremony taken place this year.
“The country’s economy has taken a beating. Parents who have either lost their jobs or had their pay reduced would have had a hard time raising the amount needed to get the extra facilities,” she said.
The hospital has pledged to subsidise the fee in order to attract more boys next year.
The Methodist Church of Kenya (MCK) also announced earlier this year that it would not conduct the ceremony due to health concerns.
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