The cleansing ceremony that exorcised Murehwa school Score of parents attended the exorcism ceremony at Muchinjike Primary School in Murehwa recently.

Talent Chimutambgi-Herald Reporter

AS the sunset loomed, parents and community leaders recently gathered at Muchinjike Primary School in Murehwa, for a rare event.

For six years, learners, parents, guardians, educationists and other  stakeholders have been searching for solutions to recurrent bouts of hysteria affecting children.

Today, all roads and village paths lead to the school for a traditional cleansing ceremony.

This is a critical moment for all and sundry as the school failed to open for the second term and the tension is palpable 

It has an enrolment at 703 learners has been experiencing both its best and worst times – being crowned as best school in the district with a high pass rate, amid hysteria which has haunted pupils for six years.

 The school authorities were under even more pressure to solve this puzzle.

On a Friday morning this month, parents gathered at the school to witness a cleansing ceremony after getting the go-ahead from traditional leaders.

There was commotion the school as the cacophony from disgruntled parents grew louder against the authorities to resolve the mystery. 

They blocked the school from reopening for the second term over witchcraft allegations that have rocked the institution.

The parents wanted to draw the attention the Government and traditional leaders on the need for a cleansing ceremony.

The school is situated in Mukunha village in Ward 4 under Headman Nheweyembwa who is under the jurisdiction of Chief Mangwende. 

It is believed to have been built close to a liberation struggle battle site.  

On the opening day, the children did not come to school. Instead, the parents were the ones who came. 

Riot police came to disperse parents, but their efforts were fruitless. The following day, the police came accompanied by the district education staff, but the parents were not moving an inch.

In a rare case of suspected witchcraft, a teacher, Mrs Florence Gavajena ,was forced to transfer to another school after  parents approached the relevant authorities. 

The head of the school, Mr Daniel Mudzamiri, told the visiting delegation that the teacher’s transfer was yet to be finalised.

The school has a teaching staff complement of 18. None of the teachers attended the ceremony, with some teachers alleged to have sneaked out in the morning without signing the attendance register.

The cleansing ceremony started at dusk, with the early childhood development pupils being the first ones.

A female traditional healer holding the tail of an unknown animal sprinkled water with herbs on the pupils.

According to local parents, pupils fainted mysteriously for successive days.

The parents claimed evil spirits were tormenting them.

 “Mysterious incidents have been taking place at the school. Some pupils fainted under mysterious circumstances while a Form Two girl went into a trance for a long time,” said a parent who declined to be named.

Ward 4 Councillor, Ephraim Tandi, said angry parents withdrew their children from the school, prompting authorities to suspend lessons. “The parents said they want to ascertain what was behind the acts of witchcraft.

“Suspected goblins also manifested at the school,” added Cllr Tandi.

School Development Committee chairperson Mrs Angela Mangwanda confirmed the matter, and narrated the events leading to the cleansing ceremony.

Scores of villagers and parents were eagerly waiting for the cleansing process which began early in the morning.

“Lessons have been suspended due to mysterious incidents at the school,” she said.

“We started to witness serious manifestations last term after pupils were haunted by the evil spirits which puzzled us.

 “We were compelled to convene a meeting with the parents to pave way for a sustainable solution. Children were vomiting blood, some could disappear and be found wandering in the bush, while some could be found lying lifeless in the forest. There was a mysterious falling of pupils during learning periods. Lessons were affected, this is when we began to see how dire the situation was.

 Children were afraid to go to school due to the hallucinations they experienced coupled with the trauma. The first child to be attacked claimed that there were 11 spirits ravaging the school.

“We wrote a letter to the District Schools Inspector  requesting to conduct a cleansing ceremony. We did not get the green light after they cited some of the regulations that were not at par with the proposal,” said Mrs Mangwanda.

“We came back home and soldier on with consultations. We approached the traditional leaders represented by Headman Nheweyembwa (real name is Rabison Chenjerai Nheweyembwa) and welcomed the idea, insisting we were lagging behind. The ceremony must be conducted in order to expose these evil attacks at the school.

The other pupils at the school were ordered to stop attending school since early this month.

The deputy head, Mrs Gavajena, who has been accused of the acts, did not attend the ceremony.

“The letter was stamped by the headman who later advised the village heads through their chairman, Mr Rodrick Mavhura, with a proposal of collection of US$1per household to invite a traditional healer to conduct an exorcism at the school,” 

Mrs Mangwanda said they were astounded after they were cited as respondents by Mrs Gavajena’s lawyers with an interdict to block the cleansing ceremony.

“To our surprise, the alleged teacher applied for an interdict to block the cleansing ceremony through her lawyers. This further raised the eyebrows from the community as to why the same person who has been longing for the ceremony was now against the process,” said Mrs Mangwanda.

It all started with the headmaster’s child who is said to be confirming the number of evils at the school which also tallied with the message from the self-styled prophets in the area.

Some parents indicated that they were not blaming anyone, but the process was meant to clear the speculations.

A parent, Mr Romeo Muswe, said the cleansing ceremony was the way to go.

“What is happening here at the school is a matter of concern. Children are falling mysteriously, vomiting blood and the learning activities have been suspended owing to these hallucinations. We need to address this immediately. I’m in full support of this, we are concerned about the future of our children. We want to create the best learning environment,” said Mr Muswe.

Another parent, Mr Lameck Hunda, said it was so disturbing that his child was haunted by the evil activities happening at the school.

Mr Hunda said his child was also a victim, adding the school had churned out Government officials including Local Government Minister Daniel Garwe.

“My child is facing the same challenge. This school is a great learning institution which has also churned out prominent figures like Cde Garwe,” said Mr Hunda.

 Speaking to journalists as a parent of a victim, Muchinjike headmaster Mr Mudzamiri confirmed the hysteria at the school, insisting it was disturbing that pupils were losing their learning periods.

“It all started in 2019, this is when we began to observe some unusual signs. Some could stare at the teacher motionlessly. Some could say they were hearing strange noises in the rooftops,” said Mr Mudzamiri.

“The full scale operations of these evil spirits manifested last year in November, with my child being the first to be attacked. She could run away from the school and we could search for her for hours. Sometimes you could find her lying down in a bad state, vomiting blood. Sometimes she could say unusual things,” he said.

Mrs Beauty Mutyoza said he was embracing the cleansing ceremony, adding they have been waiting for the day.

“As a senior citizen of this area, we never witnessed such attacks on our children. What is so disturbing is that most of the children falling victim are girls. You begin to wonder the causes,” said Mrs Mutyoza.

Asked on why the school staff did not attend the cleansing ceremony, Mr Mudzamiri said it was their choice.

Headman Nheweyembwa said he was in full support of the exorcism, adding that the issue needed to be investigated thoroughly..

He is a former pupil of the Muchinjike school around the 1950s. Most of the institution’s former learners came to witness the ceremony, including Murehwa North Member of Parliament and Local Government and Public Works Minister Daniel Garwe.

Headman Nheweyembwa said he was against any manoeuvres that could disturb learning at school as he was concerned about the future of the children.

“The matter needs to be investigated to ascertain whether it’s deliberate. If we ignore this, we are destroying the future of our children. I was a student of this school around the 1950s, we never saw this happening,” said Headman Nheweyembwa.

Cde Garwe ordered the school to re-open so that the children would catch up with their learning..

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