Nkolola Initiation Rite in Munyumbe Chiefdom of Gwembe District in Southern Province of Zambia, 2018-2020

Valued and Cherished but Waning

  • Conard Habamba
  • Austin M. Cheyeka The University of Zambia, Department of Religious & Cultural Studies
Keywords: Decline, Nkolola Initiation Practice, Tonga People, Munyumbwe Chiefdom.


Conducted in 2020, this study explored reasons for the decline in the number of girls undergoing Nkolola rite of passage for girls among the Tonga people of Munyumbwe Chiefdom in Gwembe District Southern Province. The socialisation theory as explained by Anthony Giddens of making a younger member of a community become part of it culturally was employed and confirmed in the study. The objectives of the study were: to describe the Nkolola initiation rite, to establish its value, to explain the reasons for the decline in the practice of Nkolola initiation rite, and to show measures being taken to preserve it. The study was a descriptive case study. The target population included village headmen, women, initiators, girls and boys in two selected villages of Munyumbwe Chiefdom with a population roughly of 45 000 people. The sample was 36 participants; 2 village headmen, 6 men, 6 women, 6 initiators, 8 girls and 8 boys. Purposive and snow-ball samplings were employed to get the intended respondents. Data was mainly collected using focus group interviews and some semi-structured interviews, as well as an observation schedule. Data analysis was done by making sense of themes arising from the responses of the participants in the study. The findings of the study indicated that fewer girls who had come of age in Munyumbwe chiefdom were undergoing Nkolola rite of passage due to a number of reasons such as anti-Nkolola teaching by some churches, girls’ belief that they have the right to refuse undergoing Nkolola, and the inability by some households to host the celebration to mark the girl’s coming out of seclusion. However, those who participated in this study still held the practice in high esteem, arguing that it gave them an identity as Tonga people. In addition, the lessons taught to the girls during the initiation rite were described as vital to the girls because they prepared them for marital and adulthood roles. The article recommends that chiefs, village headmen, initiators and women come up with measures to save Nkolola initiation rite from going into oblivion.

Author Biographies

Conard Habamba
Conard Habamba holds a certificate in Psychosocial Counseling (Window of Psychosocial Zambia and Training Centre), a Diploma in Education (George Benson Christian College), a B.Ed. degree (Zambian Open University) and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies (Kwame Nkrumah University). He is currently a teacher of Mathematics and Religious Education at Choma Secondary School where he is also serving as Careers and Guidance Teacher. He is winner of 2019 contribution towards personal masterly award courtesy of Press on Foundation.
Austin M. Cheyeka, The University of Zambia, Department of Religious & Cultural Studies
Austin Mumba Cheyeka is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious and Cultural Studies at the University of Zambia in the School of Education. He has published a book, journal articles and book chapters on Pentecostalism as well as religion and politics in Zambia. His specific research interests are religion and politics, religion and education, and Pentecostalism while his topical interests of research are religion (especially Indigenous Bantu religions) and religious conversion and missionaries. Professor Cheyeka works with some faith communities in Lusaka as his community service