Ugandan School Suffers Demonic Hysteria

Over 100 pupils of Sir Tito Winyi Primary School Kiziranfumbi sub-county in Hoima district became "hysterical" yesterday, forcing the school to close, in what the authorities described as a demonic attack.

Some victims had undressed. Hundreds of parents flocked to the school and took their children away.

As the situation seemed to run out of hand, the Rev. Geoffrey Matata of Kiziranfumbi Church took the children for special prayers.

Head teacher Vincent Kitende said 720 pupils had reported for the first term, which opened yesterday. "The situation is bad. About 100 pupils are totally mad. They are chasing everybody including teachers and fellow pupils, throwing stones, banging doors and windows. The situation is difficult to explain."

The school, named after the late Tito Winyi, the King of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and father of King Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, is a UPE mixed day school, with a total number of 970 pupils.

Kitende said late last year, a similar incident happened at the school, affecting about 210 pupils. "We do not know what to do. on Sunday, we held special prayers before the pupils reported and assured parents to send their children, knowing there was no cause for alarm. But here we are in a bad situation again."

Last year, four residents of the area, one of them a Congolese national, were arrested and charged in a Hoima court with casting a spell on the school. However, when the prosecution produced witnesses, court had to adjourn and magistrate George Obong and the prosecutors fled the courtroom after the pupils who were witnesses became hysterical again when they saw the suspects. The suspects reportedly have a land dispute with the school.

However, experts said the children could be facing mental challenges. "It could also be a form of mass hysteria where there is anxiety and bizarre behaviour," said Paul Nyende, a lecturer at Makerere University's department of mental health and community psychology.

"But it does not mean demons do not exist and the school may need to get services from religious exorcists. The pupils also need counselling because it is a traumatic experience."

Area MP Tom Kyahurwenda, who visited the school, said: "As government, we are concerned because the pupils are missing education."

The assistant chief administrative officer for Buhaguzi county, Hannington Asaba, said prayers would be held to solve the matter.


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