Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora has dismissed last week’s claims that four teachers at Nyanyadzi High School in Chimanimani initiated pupils into Satanism.
Last Tuesday anti-riot police descended on Nyanyadzi High to restore calm after angry pupils and parents demanded the sacking of a female teacher accused of initiating three colleagues into Satanism.
The quartet allegedly then recruited pupils.
According to our sister paper The Manica Post, the demonstrations followed statements by a 17-year-old Form Three pupil to the effect that she was no longer interested in killing people.
She was quoted saying she was initiated by simply accepting a chocolate from a Satanist colleague, adding that 398 female and two male pupils were Satanists.
“Each of the 400 students initiated into Satanism had a big black snake that one would leave behind in bed or in class each time they went out for their routine blood sucking errands,” The Manica Post reported.
Provincial education director Mr Edward Shumba reportedly rushed to the school to investigate.
And Dr Dokora said apart from this possibly being a case of hysteria, people jealous of the teacher in question — who has a 100 percent pass rate — could have stirred the allegations.
“She lives in the same community; she might have some misunderstandings with people in the area which might have prompted the whole thing. There is a story behind the whole saga that happened at the school which is not Satanism therefore the ministry cannot involve itself in such,” he said.
“School children have a tendency of behaving in a hysterical manner especially when they are in a group. The parents who claim that their children travelled to India are subject of psychiatric chairs or else they need rehabilitation.”
He added that the pressure of mid-term testing could also be to blame.
A Professor of Religion who declined to be named concurred with the minister, saying such things could happen as children succumbed to stress.
Another religion expert, Dr David Bishau, added: “Satanism is in itself a secret religion and it would be very difficult for the alleged teacher to have initiated 400 school children at once unless she confessed that it was her intention to do so.”
As reported by The Sunday Mail on April 7, 2013, traditionalists link hysteria to evil spirits.
“On the other hand scientists point to a minor brain disorder while the general population believes it is Satanism,” it was reported.
An online source also says, “Hysteria is caused by emotional excitability, such as fear or panic, and disturbance of the sensory, motor and psychic functions of humans. It can be a result of past trauma, undue stress, history of abuse and repression of sexual feelings.
‘‘Psychologists further describe hysteria as an overwhelming and unmanageable excitable behaviour.”
In 2009, 56 pupils at Eaglesvale High School in Harare reportedly transferred from the elite school amid reports of mass hysteria blamed on a “cult”.
The children were said to be speaking in strange voices, fought each other, and damaged walls and windows.
At Nemamwa Primary school in Masvingo the same year, pupils reportedly started screaming wildly and complaining of visions of snake-like creatures at the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe-run institution.
Masvingo had another such case in 2011 at Mashoko High School where suspected mass hysteria affected hundreds of pupils as the children spontaneously screamed, ran and fell while mumbling inaudibly before becoming unconscious.
Another case was reported in 2012 at Yemuranai Primary School in Mufakose, Harare where over 30 pupils became hysterical, among them Grade One and Two children who became violent, exhibited extraordinary strength and spoke in unusual voices.
Fast forward to 2013, female students at Neshaya Secondary School in Hwange said they saw their headmaster carrying a bottle filled with hot blood.
Four girls are said to have fainted, prompting parents to withdraw their children from the school before it was temporarily closed after some pupils boycotted classes.
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