Friday, October 30, 2015

School conflicts

What happens when the country school schedules conflict with the grade school schedules? The country devils have been coming out, and clinic staff are disconcerted. "According to traditional elders, when a Country Devil comes out of the bush, non-members of either the Poro or Sande societies hide to avoid being forcibly initiated into one of the societies for a period of three to six months." I gather that not all staff members have been initiated--and hiding makes operating the clinic difficult.

Things get more complicated during the school year. So the government came up with some rules.

In June 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reviewed the licenses of Poro and Sande societies, with the involvement of elders and chiefs and stated that violators would bear the full penalty of the law.

The Bureau of Customs and Cultural Affairs of the MIA in collaboration with the National Council of Chiefs, Elders and Zoes urged their council members throughout the country to carry out their functions within the confines of traditional laws and guidelines governing the practices of Poro and Sande societies.

However, the MIA reiterated that no Poro, Sande or Zoe conductor shall initiate any child or any student into a grove during the normal school year.

I suspect that the thousand-year-old Poro (for boys) and Sande (for girls) society leaders consider the MIA to be upstarts. I'd be almost sympathetic--but both societies have some ugly practices; for example the Sande is reported to be heavily into FGM.

Three years ago there was talk of banning the Sande, but as that article says:

But some town elders say the government’s efforts to suspend Sande are just “mouth talk” and there is a way around everything in Liberia.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is hard to know where the lines between reluctant accommodation, tacit permission, and surreptitious encouragement lie. I cannot even imagine myself having the wisdom to discern this in such a situation.

james said...

Since these are the groups that execute the rites of passage for children, teach them the religious secrets, and explain the expectations of the society, they have a powerful role in the life of a tribesman. Not an inevitable role--it varies by tribe(*), and I've heard stories that suggest that some people avoided recruitment for decades--but strong enough that maybe people overlook the flaws, or rationalize them.

(*)I'm told that the secrecy involved varies by tribe too: some with almost open-air sessions where the children sometimes returned home during the proceedings and others secluded and where outsiders or runaways could be killed.