Saturday, July 20, 2024

Nyau boy returns to school


A fifteen year old Grade five pupil at Lusandwa Primary School in Lusangazi District of Eastern Province, who had temporarily quit school to be initiated into a Nyau Dancer, has returned to school.

Nyau Dancers are a group of men who are responsible for initiating boys into adulthood and are best known for performing the Gule Wamkulu, a dance practiced by the Chewa people in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
ZANIS reports that when the boy was visited by Lusangazi District Social welfare Officer, Ristone Njobvu, the visibly shy boy narrated that he decided to join the Nyau group against his parents wish and that of the school authorities because he felt it was important to embrace culture since he was a Chewa by tribe from Katete District.

The boy explained that after his initiation for close to a Month, he now felt free because he was a full member of one of the respected groups in society, adding that belonging to the Nyau group would not hinder him from pursuing his education.

“I just wanted to belong to the Nyau dancers because it’s my tradition despite my parents and the school teachers being against my decision but I want to continue with school,’’ he said.

And Lusangazi District Social welfare Officer, Ristone Njobvu, counseled the boy and asked him to continue with his education as the government had offered him an opportunity to be in school for free.

Mr Njobvu said the government was concerned about the welfare of every boy and girl because they were the state’s trophy, adding that his office would be monitoring the boy to ensure that he remained in class.
The District Social welfare Officer also asked the leaders of the Nyau group in the area to respect the laws of Zambia by ensuring that initiated boys are not involved in any of their activities during school days.
” In as much as it is cardinal to respect our tradition, there are laws to be followed, so these young ones are the government’s trophies and we shall ensure that we monitor them so that they remain in school and not be involved in the traditional activities during school days,’’ he said.

The boy’s father, Alex Banda, from village 78 in Chief Sandwe’s area and a Chewa by tribe, thanked the government for the quick intervention in his son’s matter and for allowing his son to be in school again.
Mr Banda said he was against his son’s idea of joining the Nyau dancing group because he was now a born again Christian and those issues mattered less to him despite him also being an initiated member of the Nyau group.
“I was initiated into Nyau when I was a young boy and now I’m an adult and a Christian. Such activities do not add any value to my life and I’m not supporting any of my children who want to be initiated,’’ he said.

And the boy’s mother, Joyce Phiri, who is also Chewa by tribe, complained that the Nyau activities had delayed his son’s education as he was supposed to be in grade 10 but kept repeating because he was always found with the group during the time he was supposed to be in class.

“He was almost completing school but was delayed due to his Nyau activities,’’ he said.
And School Head teacher, Mutale Nsofu, complained that there was divided loyalty from the initiated Nyau pupil as he opted to give much respect and attention to the Nyau activities at the expense of the school rules.
” Yes I know it’s tradition and has to be respected but you find that instead of initiated boys to be in school, they opt to go for their Nyau activities which is worrying as we see them moving around the school premises,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Nyau dancing group, Michael Mwinga, said his group would not allow any initiated school boy to be taking part in the Nyau activities during school days.

Mr Mwinga said most of the school boys were being returned from joining the group but the boy in question willingly forced himself to the group until he was initiated but would not be allowed to take part in their activities unless during holidays.

” Mine is just to instruct my group not to allow any initiated school boy to participate in anything during school days and if the boys refuse to follow my instructions, they would be punished until they return to school,‘’ he said.

The Nyau tradition has been in existence for centuries but officially gained International recognition in 2005 when the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gave the ritual protection as one of the 90 masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.


  1. Chewas need to realise that we now live life in a money economy and a nation-state where education is important not necessarily to get a job but also to acquire public information and arm oneself. No cultural practice should interfere with any child’s education.


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