The Monitor :: Mass Hysteria Shocks Salajwe
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Last Updated
Tuesday 21 May 2019, 17:10 pm.
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Mass Hysteria Shocks Salajwe

SALAJWE: Residents of this tiny and sleepy village have been left tramuatised, after over 100 boarders at Lempu Junior Secondary School (JSS), were hit by a rare condition that caused the students to exhibit wobbliness, while walking.
By Pini Bothoko Mon 11 Mar 2019, 18:00 pm (GMT +2)
The Monitor :: Mass Hysteria Shocks Salajwe








The remote village located 70km northwest of Letlhakeng village had its usually peaceful environment shaken last Monday when three female students were attacked by a mysterious sickness.

By Tuesday the students’ numbers had risen to 14, which terrified teachers and the school leadership. By Wednesday morning, the number of affected students was at 45 and in the afternoon, the numbers had shot up to 120. 

They were sent to the village clinic where nurses could not establish what the problem was, and  they were referred to Scottish Livingstone Hospital where they were hospitalised.

On Thursday the numbers had increased to 124, something that forced the Ministry of Basic Education to close the school temporarily to curb the spread as well as investigate the cause of the attack. On Friday the numbers had increased to 133, but that same afternoon, out of the 133 admitted, 110 students were discharged.

Videos of affected students circulated across different social media platforms, which sent shockwaves throughout the nation.

Debate raged on for quite some time and there were suggestions that the students might have eaten contaminated food, while others thought the students might have taken something, which altered their ability to walk properly. Others thought the attack might be spiritual in nature.

However, doctors at Molepolole’s Scottish Livingstone Hospital say their preliminary investigations suggested mass hysteria, with its cause still being investigated by a multidisciplinary team.

When The Monitor team arrived at Salajwe on Friday morning, the village was quite, save for a few movements here and there.

Our first stop was the Kgotla where on arrival the village leadership was having a closed meeting.

 

Is The School

Built On A Burial Site?

Villagers say the school was constructed where there used to be their forefathers’ cemeteries and the spirits of the dead might probably be the ones troubling the students. Some say they heard allegations that students are having sleepless nights at the school’s dormitory as they are terrorised by a small creature, which they suspect could be a thokolosi (poltergeist).

In an interview, senior chief representative, Moalo Gaerupe said they were shocked by the mysterious disease.

“I received a phone call from the school head on Wednesday morning who pleaded with me to come to the school as they were faced with a serious problem. On arrival I found learners walking like they were dancing.

“At first I took it for granted, kana ene okare ba bina mozobozobo, bane ba tswelela ba tsamaya jaalo mme ka tlelwa ke letshogo,” Gaerupe said.

“They appeared like they were not in control of their bodies especially from the waist downwards. It was my first time to see something like that, I was shocked, Bana bane ba tlhomola pelo tota. Gone go utlusa botlhoko.”

He said when the students sat down, someone might dismiss reports of them being attacked by an unknown sickness, but when they stood up and tried to walk, that is when people saw that indeed the children were struggling.

Gaerupe added that early last year there were reports that two female students experienced the same situation, but that did not last long. He said by then the students were taken to the clinic, where they were treated and discharged.

“We took it lightly then and those two girls even this time around have experienced the same attack and are amongst the ones that were taken to Scottish Livingstone Hospital,” Gaerupe said.

“Tota ga ke itse gore go diragala eng mo motseng wame. Ga ke itse gore bana ba tlhasetswe ke eng,, We are troubled and villagers are not happy at all. Parents were crying, some furious and blaming the school leadership. I do not know if it’s Satanism attacks or what. We need serious prayers at that school.”

Gaerupe said the village leadership has agreed to invite different churches even from other villages to pray for the children and the school.“I heard reports that some parents have taken their children to churches for prayers and they are okay hence the need for prayers.”

Asked whether the school was built on a plot that used to be a cemetery, Gaerupe rubbished the claims. He revealed that people used to reside at the area that currently houses Lempu in the late 1950s.The school management declined to comment on what transpired at the school.

Lempu JSS’ school head, Barulaganye Moseki referred this publication to his deputy Molatlhegi Thekiso who declined to comment any further on the matter. Thekiso however suggested that The Monitor should seek further clarity on the matter at the parent ministry.

However, it was reported that the school head said the disease started with three students on Monday. They were then rushed to the clinic, but the nurse could not establish what the problem was.

The most affected were boarding students from the

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neighbouring villages of Khudumelapye, Serilatholo, Kaudwane and surrounding cattle posts.

Some villagers claimed that the place where the school is situated used to be their forefathers’ cemeteries. “Kana golo hale e kile yabo ele diphuphu, gongwe bana ba tswenngwa ke mowa ya batho baba robetseng. Ke akanya gore dikereke di bitswe gotla go rapelela mowa wa batho ba ba robetseng fale kana e fudusiwa fa le gongwe ke yone e tshwenyang bana,” said 34-year-old Leduma Ntshotla, a resident of Salajwe.

Ntshotla said the village was shocked by what happened saying it was the first time to see such an incident.  He feared that the situation might affect the unaffected learners emotionally as they saw how other learners were struggling.

“Even us as parents we are nervous. All learners must have been isolated not to be released home, what if they pass this disease to us parents. Re tshogile re beile mo modimong fela,” said the concerned Ntshotla.

He said he has also heard rumours that boarding students especially those at girls’ hostels were troubled by a short creature believed to be a poltergeist.

“Students are also probably haunted by a thokolosi. Gatwe ba re bosigo fa ba  ya mantwaneng abo iteketso ba bona moriti wa monna yo mokhutshwane, ke belaela go nale thokolosi golo kwa. (It is said at night when they visit the ablution blocks, they see a shadow of a very short man. I suspect there is a poltergeist in that place).  That school needs prayers to cast out all those evil spirits,” he said.

Another resident, Mopalo Legopelo, 86, whose niece was also attacked by the mysterious disease said they are shocked and praying for their daughter to get medical assistance.

“We are shocked at what transpired, I haven’t seen them but heard rumours that they were trembling from the waist down. This is a strange thing to happen in our village, but I heard something like this once attacked students at a certain primary school at Letlhakeng village,” he said.

Asked about the thokolosi rumours, Legopelo said he once heard that but thought it was just learners’ tricks to scare others. He is in agreement that the school needs prayers.

Another resident also a headman of Keiswanae ward, Botlhoko Dichaba echoed Legopelo’s sentiments stating that the community was in shock, reiterating a need for prayers at the school.

“I know that when something happens there should be prayers hence I am calling for prayers especially that this is a strange thing to have happened. Majority of parents were furious, some were even crying as this is an extraordinary thing. We do not know if it’s a disease or what, bana ba teng ba ntlhomotse pelo tota,” said Dichaba. Asked about the allegations that the school was built where they used to be cemeteries Dichaba said he knows that years back some people used to stay there.

When the The Monitor team visited Scottish Livingstone Hospital on Friday afternoon, Superintendent Dr Kunal Rose was busy arranging for 110 students to be discharged from the hospital.

“We are discharging 110 students today (Friday). They are stable at the moment hence ready to be discharged. We had admitted 133 from Tuesday and Wednesday being 131 girls and two boys with age range from 13 to 18 years. Nobody is sick, they are stable, and it is not an environmental-related disease,” Rose explained.

“It is not a common disease, but it has been noticed in young females in health history in Africa, there has been cases. It is not an illness, but something in the mind, usually the girls wobble incautiously and most of them don’t experience any pain. When the learners arrived here, they were wobbling around.”

Rose stated that the learners were attacked by mass hysteria and the hospital has ruled out the possibility of the students having had infections influenced by the environment. He assured the nation that all learners will be assisted and be back to school soon.

According to “https://www.medicalnewstoday.com” in order to provide a clearer definition of mass hysteria, to outline it as an event of potential clinical interest, and to distance it from any unduly negative connotations, researchers have actually advised referring to the phenomenon as “collective obsessional behaviour.”

It further states, ‘Specialists who have taken an interest in this phenomenon say that it is a type of “psychogenic illness” that is, a condition that begins in the mind, rather than in the body. Physiological symptoms, however, are often not illusory but very much real, mass hysteria is also described as a ‘conversion disorder’ in which a person has physiological symptoms affecting the nervous system in the absence of a physical cause of illness, and which may appear in reaction to psychological distress.

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