Mpophomeni School: Grade nine girl ‘accused of witchcraft’

2009-03-30 00:00

“SATANISM and serious demonic activity” is how some teachers and parents described the uproar at Mpophomeni High School near Howick. The school was brought to a standstill yesterday when the latest fits of hysteria currently doing the rounds in provincial high schools hit about 19 girl pupils.

A prayer meeting has been scheduled for this morning, after an unplanned debriefing called by parents wanting to get to the bottom of the situation agreed that prayer was the best solution for this perplexing phenomenon.

Parents called for an end to classes after the start of the mass hysteria, under which condition female pupils fall down in spells of shaking and screaming.

A grown woman believed to be one of the parents and a young woman who is out of school were also reported to have started displaying similar symptoms as parents gathered around the school to attend to the problem.

Police confirmed that a grade nine pupil went to the Mpophomeni police station for assistance after members of the community allegedly accused her of being behind the hysteria, saying she is involved in witchcraft.

A senior school official said the incident is inexplicable.

He said it all started last Friday at about 10 am, when a few grade nine girls became hysterical. It spread rapidly from then on.

“The strange thing is that it happens only to female learners. It started in the far end of the school and the teachers were trying to [understand] what was going on. But by 12 pm, we realised that it was getting out of hand. We have over 1 000 learners and we feared a stampede. We decided to close the school down.”

However, he said, things got even more intense yesterday.

Ward manager Maziwakhe Duma said the Education Department views the situation as an emergency. He added that the department respects the parents’ thoughts and religious beliefs.

“Our team of psychologists will be deployed to give professional counselling to the learners. We will monitor the situation and be present to ensure that what the principal requires he gets easily.

“But we also view schools as vehicles of teaching and learning. It is a critical time of common tests, which count for the end mark, and it is our responsibility as government to ensure that there are no further disruptions.”

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