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CULTURE FIRST

Allow us to circumcise our boys in peace, Baringo elders tell state

More than 10,000 initiates are undergoing the rite of passage in bushes across the county.

In Summary
  • Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang toured the county and raised concern over the high number of schoolboys currently being circumcised in Baringo.
  • Most of the pupils who reported to school on Monday are girls, while boys are undergoing circumcision.
Some 5,000 teenage boys from Ilchamus community armed with sticks line up during the official opening of age-group circumcision ceremony at Meisori, Baringo South, on September 30.
Some 5,000 teenage boys from Ilchamus community armed with sticks line up during the official opening of age-group circumcision ceremony at Meisori, Baringo South, on September 30.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO
Baringo leaders, led by Governor Stanley Kiptis and Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren (centre), jump up to celebrate with the Ilchamus initiates armed with sticks during the official opening of age-group circumcision ceremony at Meisori, Baringo South, on September 30.
Baringo leaders, led by Governor Stanley Kiptis and Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren (centre), jump up to celebrate with the Ilchamus initiates armed with sticks during the official opening of age-group circumcision ceremony at Meisori, Baringo South, on September 30.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

Elders in Baringo county have opposed the reopening of schools, demanding that they should be allowed to circumcise their boys.

So far more than 10,000 initiates are undergoing the rite of passage in the bushes across the county.

"Culture is culture. No reserve, and even the government officials should not pretend they don’t understand that," Tugen elder Joseph Noti said on Wednesday.

Noti accused the government of insensitivity when drawing up the education calendar for resumption of learning.

"Following the onset of Covid-19 pandemic in March, our people had already set their minds that schools shall be pushed up to next year," he said.

On Tuesday, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang toured the county and raised concern over the high number of schoolboys currently being circumcised in Baringo.

He spoke in Marigat while touring schools submerged by the rising water level in lakes Baringo, Bogoria and 94.

"It is regrettable that more than 5,000 boys have failed to resume learning in Baringo South alone since they underwent the cut," Kipsang said.

He called upon parents to wait until April next year so that they can initiate their children.

The PS emphasised that the government is keen to see that all students resume classes once the coronavirus pandemic had been tamed.

"Despite our people being deeply rooted in their culture, we humbly urge them to stop initiating their children at the moment. Instead, they should postpone until April next year," he said.

However, Noti dismissed the PS saying that as a Kalenjin Kipsang is not a stranger to the demands of culture.

He said it is impossible to release the boys, unless the government deploys  teachers to go teach them in their shrines in the bushes.

Ilchamus elder John ole’ Saningo said there is nothing they can do because thousands of boys from the local community are already undergoing the initiation ceremony.

"How is it our problem anyway? We started planning to circumcise our boys as soon as  the government announced closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March," Saningo said.

The county is inhabited by the Ilchamus, Pokot and Tugen pastoral communities living in Baringo North, Tiaty, Mogotio, Baringo Central, Eldama-Ravine and Baringo South.

Currently, the majority of pupils in schools since they opened on Monday are girls.

Ole' Saningo said it is impossible to recall the initiates halfway and force them to go to school before healing fully.

"Sorry it is too late. We are now in the middle of it. You ought to have told us about the reopening of schools in time, otherwise it is our wish that our culture be respected at this point and learning should be pushed to next year," he said.