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Exploring the schooling experiences of initiated Xhosa young men in a secondary school at Umzimkhulu.

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Young men’s experiences are different, and in particular, so are the schooling experiences of initiated Xhosa young men. Using qualitative research methods, this dissertation seeks to explore the schooling experiences of a group of initiated Xhosa young at uMzimkhulu. Drawing on group and individual interviews, the study explores the relationships between initiated young men and their peers, their teachers; their conduct, behaviour as well their performance in areas of academics and sport. The study is based on the masculinities theoretical framework. Through the use of literature, the study will include articulation of what different authors say about the significance of the initiation ritual, what influences or places pressure on Xhosa young men to undergo the initiation ritual, and the role of the initiation ritual in reducing Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) infection. In addition, it will elucidate what various authors maintain concerning the role of the South African government in monitoring the initiation ritual, the problems associated with the initiation ritual, and the impact the ritual has in perpetuating gender differences and the formation of other gender forms. The majority of Xhosa people, it would seem, strongly believe that all Xhosa young men should be traditionally initiated. Initiation is legally done by Xhosa young men in particular, between the ages of 18 to 25. The initiation process, (a marker of manhood) includes circumcision (the removal of foreskin from the penis) which serves as a sign/symbol that distinguishes men from boys. The study examines the contribution of the traditional initiation event to the construction of masculinities, and consequently, educational experiences of initiated Xhosa young men within the school. It is culturally believed that after initiation, Xhosa boys become young men and are expected to ‘behave like men’. These young men also expect to be ‘treated like men’. What happens, then, if these initiated Xhosa young men are still at school? These young men carry communal and social characteristics to school, as a result they are caught in a predicament environment. The study has found that the young men who have been circumcised and have endured the initiation process and survived receiving hegemonic status. So even though there are some initiated boys who do not expect preferential treatment nor do they discriminate against non-initiated boys, they nevertheless benefit from the gains made for all who are initiated. The study has also found that initiation ritual speaks largely to the event of the construction of masculinities and characterised by a variety of experiences including interpersonal relationships with teachers and peers, risky behaviour, the reduction of discrimination, behaviour associated with one’s chosen attire, as well as academic and sport performances.


M. Ed. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2013.


Circumcision--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Xhosa (African people)--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal--Rites and ceremonies., Puberty rites--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Education.