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In my previous post ‘WOO TAKEDOWN #03 – ‘Demonic Attacks’ in Ugandan Primary Schools’, we looked at the concept of Mass Hysteria in detail and analysed the events that transpired at Kitebi Day & Boarding Nursery & Primary School based on information we were able to get by interviewing the deputy headmistress and the school cook.

Yesterday’s Sunday Vision featured a story called ‘What’s Happening at Kitebi Primary School?’ in which its reporters talked to some of the pupils of that school, their parents, and also the teachers. Some of what has been brought to light is simply shocking.

For example, the school headmaster was very much involved in the practice of traditional spirit rituals, and subjected his pupils to it:

…as Hadija Nnalongo, a mother to Shakira Nakato, a P7 pupil, says, he undertook special measures to protect his students from the attacks. “My daughter told me that the headmaster slaughtered a cow last month and smeared its blood on every pupil’s ankles,” Nnalongo reveals.

One of the pupils tried to explain what happens to her during the times she is usually thought to be ‘possessed by evil spirits’:

Najjiwa narrates that “I feel weak when I am about to get possessed. I get a headache and lose my sight. I feel like someone is holding my neck so as to stop me from talking. I can’t to sleep at night and prefer to be left alone. I never wanted to be with my family members.”

Greater exposition of the widely-believed (by the pupils and teachers of Kitebi) conspiracy theory is provided:

Even more interesting is the fact that some, including pupils, claim to know who sent the mayembe to the school. Most people Sunday Vision talked to are convinced that one of the teachers, Naomi Wandera, who also happens to be Ssenfuma’s ex-lover, sent the mayembe to spite him.

“It is Teacher Naomi who sent the mayembe. She was once our headmaster’s wife but the headmaster threw her out for another teacher. They attacked my friends and they started speaking in tongues,” swore Zakai Nabitaka, a P7 pupil who stayed at school when her parents delayed to pick her up. She believes the demons did not attack her because she had a rosary and had started fasting.

The pupil’s testimony is backed by one P6 teacher. “I believe that Naomi is behind those demons because she was once involved with the headmaster, but he left her for another teacher,” the teacher says.

To spite her replacement and win back the headmaster’s love, Naomi’s accusers insist, she sought the services of a witchdoctor. “When this failed, she decided to plant charms in the school so that the headmaster leaves the school,” the P6 teacher claims.

Mayembe are ‘evil spirits’. Read the full article here.


It is interesting to note that the symptoms Najjiwa described earlier (as she was getting ‘possessed’) are precisely the type exhibited during episodes of mass hysteria as shown by these reports from unrelated cases:

During late January 1999 in a Bronx, New York City, intermediate school, 80 students and teachers fell suddenly and mysteriously ill, 40­60 students became sick the next day, and 1,200 students were twice "evacuated." The complaints the victims reported included piercing headaches, chest pain, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, dizziness, fainting, and weakness. Said the principal: "Some felt nauseous, and their legs were weak. It was almost like they were hallucinating." Thirty-three students and three teachers were taken to hospitals, where oxygen was administered to some.

and:

There was a similar outbreak in Santa Monica, California, in 1989, at a school concert with 2,600 attendees. Many of the 600 student performers suddenly complained of abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, nausea, and/or weakness. Earlier that day, during rehearsal, some students had said they smelled fresh paint, and two girls had complained of dizziness, faintness, and nausea. During the concert 247 students took ill, including 16 sopranos who fainted. The fire department dispatched to the school two paramedic units, two engines, and a truck. A treatment station was constructed on the auditorium lawn. Many of the younger girls were frightened and had tears in their eyes as they observed rows of schoolmates on stretchers. Some paramedics and firefighters said they suspected that mass hysteria was responsible for the complaints. Eight ambulances took 19 students to hospitals. Although firefighters tried extensively to determine the presence of toxic chemicals, they did not. Many parents delayed their children’s return to school for days.

The diagnosis of mass hysteria is not properly a "default" diagnosis; that is, it is inappropriate to decide that mass hysteria has caused an illness merely because pathogenic organisms and toxic chemicals appear absent. Mass hysteria spreads by sight and/or sound. How one reacts to the sight of a conspicuously sick friend is the best predictor of the development of symptoms.

Mass hysteria occurs most often among adolescents or preadolescents. In groups of students, its incidence among girls is higher than it is among boys. According to some studies, symptoms tend to occur in groups that are overstressed. A history of such loss as of a parent or a history of physical illness increases individual susceptibility in children.

From: American Council on Science and Health, on Mass Hysteria

It is quite obvious that what transpired at Kitebi Day & Boarding Nursery & Primary School was Mass Hysteria.

In light of this:

  • The Ministry of Education would do well to instruct all head teachers to refer such cases to psychiatrists, psychologists or councillors – rather than have them invite pastors, priests, witchdoctors and other shamans (or worse still, have them carry out these bizarre rituals themselves).
  • Greater public discussion of the BELIEFS these people hold also needs to take place continuously. People need to stop believing that they are constantly being besieged by demons and evil spirits – for it is these beliefs that perpetuate and sustain the anxieties that manifest themselves by way of psychotic episodes and mass hysteria among those that hold them. There is no evidence that demons and evil spirits exist.

It’s about time that the rational approach to solving problems be appreciated by members Ugandan society.


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