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Govt to take serious legal action against illicit initiation schools

The official death toll this season has reached 25, with most fatalities reported in the Eastern Cape.

FILE: Locals who rescued the boys say this is the blade used to perform the illegal circumcisions at an illegal initiation school in Meadowlands. Picture: Dineo Bendile/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As initiation related deaths increase, government has said it will ensure that legal action is taken against those found operating illegal schools.

Acts of torture have been reported at some illegal centres where initiates have reportedly been burned, beaten and starved.

The official death toll this initiation season has reached 25, with most fatalities reported in the Eastern Cape.

The Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders said many illegal initiation schools are run by syndicates looking to make quick money.

The organisation's Kgosi Malesela Dikgale said, "They are making a scam, and they are making money with these kids. Actually, in the village, they pretend to be having the permits and you find that they don't have anything."

This week authorities rescued 158 children from an illegal initiation school near Tzaneen.

Officials said many initiation-related deaths and injuries are a result of unauthorised schools.

WATCH: _Police and community members destroyed an illegal initiation school they discovered in Soweto over the weekend. _

PARENTS URGED TO CHECK SCHOOLS

Meanwhile, parents have been urged to check the credentials of initiation schools before they allow their children to be admitted.

Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo have been identified as areas of concern with growing numbers of illegal schools.

Traditional leaders have also urged schools not to accept children who don't have consent from their parents.

At the same time, Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela confirmed on Thursday that more than 1,000 young boys have been rescued from illegal initiation schools in the Eastern Cape since the start of the season.

Bapela said the Eastern Cape has the highest number of illegal schools.

"Already 1,100 initiates have been rescued from illegal schools and 145 of them are hospitalised."

He also said at least 400 illegal initiation schools had been shut down in the province.