'Possessed' children beaten

2009-03-31 00:00

The chaos at Mpophemeni High School escalated to new heights yesterday, as local spiritual leaders hit pupils with wet ropes in an attempt to “exorcise the evil spirits” from them.

Pupils were screaming, falling to the ground and shaking as they threw fits.

Yesterday, the hysteria extended to boys. Parents were frantic as they watched the spectacle from outside the school gates and some took their children out of the school.

A spiritual leader stood on one side beating a girl with a rope and splashing her with water, telling her to say “Get out of me Satan”.

The havoc of the past few days continued yesterday morning during prayers in assembly.

Religious leaders had been called to conduct special prayers at the school after the “demonic outbreak” last Friday. The hysteria started again yesterday in spite of the presence of men and women of the cloth who had begun to cast out the demons.

Pupils were hallucinating, screaming and jumping as they were overcome by seizures.

The situation was clearly out of control. Pupils who were not affected tried to help those who were screaming and jumping in pain. Parents and community members were driving in and out of the school taking affected pupils away in their vehicles.

A grade nine pupil who also displayed the symptoms on Monday said there were more pupils affected yesterday. She was not sure of the figures, but it seemed there were more than 30.

Parents and members of the community gathered at the school grounds chanting, “We want our children to go home, close the school until the situation has been dealt with”. Other parents did not want to negotiate about the situation. “I have three boys here, all in grade eight, and I am taking them home until this problem has been dealt with. They are already affected by the situation,” said one of the parents.

Ward manager Maziwakhe Duma refused to shut down the school, saying he does not have the authority to do so. He told parents that pupils were supposed to be writing tests for continuous assessment.

“As a parent I understand your concern, but this school has one of the highest pass rates in this region and if these children do not write their tests they will fail at the end of the year.”

However, he promised to report the situation to Education superintendent-general Cassius Lubisi.

Duma told parents to return today at 10 am when he would give a response from the department.

The Education Department had not commented on the hysteria or the fact that people were beating the “demons” out of the children, by the time of going to press yesterday.

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