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Mysterious illness terrifies school girls

Sekete Lesaoana

A mysterious illness recently terrorized girls in a dormitory at the Eagle’s Peak High School in Qacha’s Nek district.

Students who spoke to Newsday said the illness started after one of them attended a church service in one of the charismatic churches found in the area.

The girl experienced an unusual sensation in her tummy with shortness of breath that resulted in fainting and fits. She seemed to be disorientated and hallucinating, Newsday was, told.

According to reports, she was warned prior to leaving the church service that she would experience the unusual attack and should not be touched by her fellow scholars as she would pass the illness to them.

An eyewitness who is in grade nine said chaos broke when three girls appeared to be under some sort of attack during mealtime on a Sunday last month.

“We were having our meals when one girl started screaming wildly with fear and acting uncontrollably all over the dormitory,” she said.

“We tried to calm her down when we realised she was having difficulty breathing while there was also some unusual movement in her tummy.

“She floored one girl with a kick and immediately that other girl started experiencing similar symptoms.”

The source said they then called for the school principal but she did not show up as she does not reside within the school premises.

“Instead of coming she urged us to pray,” the source said.

She said when other teachers came through later, the mysterious behaviour in the affected girls had subsided.  

“We were then left by ourselves again because the matron knocked off saying her gut feeling did not allow her to stay at the dormitories.”

The students had to call their parents to come and collect them at the school as they experienced more waves of the illness.

Only affected girls were collected but the school principal did not suspend lessons thereafter as it was a normal school day the next Monday.

Some girls sought medical help at the Hermitage clinic and some at home.

The sources indicate that some of the students have been fainting on consecutive days since the illness broke out at the school.

The sources further said that Hermitage clinic was denying ill girls medical attention, with the nurses saying they had never come across such an illness before. The nurses instead advised the patients to seek help from priests to pray for them.

In an interview, Eagles’ Peak High School principal, ‘Masebolelo Pelesa, confirmed the incident in her school. She said the girls showed signs of hysteria.

Hysteria is a disorder characterized by neurological symptoms often accompanied by exaggeratedly or inappropriately emotional behaviour, originally attributed to disease or injury of the nervous system and later thought to be functional or psychological in origin.

“With our experience of hysteria in the area, I recognized the signs. I read from Google that the signs these children are showing are of hysteria, and unfortunately it is said there is no cure for it,” Pelesa said.

“When the students say they saw something moving in the stomach I believe it to be a swollen part inside.

“Three students experienced this at a go on the first breakout but I was not in the school premises as I commute to work. The teachers who rushed to the scene helped to calm the situation and then left that heeded the call left,” Pelesa said.

‘Mamoneri Nkoro, a parent of one of the affected children, said she never received a call from the school management since her child fell ill.

“I received a call that Sunday at about 1900hrs from our neighbour’s daughter who is in grade nine with mine, telling me Karabelo is sick and they were left alone in the dormitories.

“What worried me is that I could hear the mourns and the screams as we talked on the phone and when I asked that she put her on the phone all she could do was mourn, it was at that moment that I asked my neighbour to go with me to the School to fetch my granddaughter.

“My neighbour inquired with an Ambulance driver, who said nurses at the clinic did not know what to do with the students.”

Senate Makhaola, the nurse in charge at Hermitage Clinic denied allegations that the clinic turned ill students away.

Makhaola said she inquired with her staff and no one seemed to know anything.

She referred this publication back to the school principal or to produce the names of the learners who were denied service at the clinic.

Qacha’s Nek District Education Manager, Mothibeli Lebenya, professed ignorance on the matter. He said the school principal should have reported it as soon as she was alerted.

“We have not received news whatsoever, either from the school or complaints from parents regarding Eagle’s peak High School and therefore we can’t intervene. It was my first time to hear of this matter when you called,” Lebenya said.

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