Last Updated on Sunday, 29 January 2023, 20:57 by Denis Chabrol
Authorities in the Rupununi say that prayers by religious leaders appeared to have reduce the number of ‘spiritual’ attacks on students of St Ignatius Secondary School, and those who have been missing face-to-face classes are being assisted.
A number of students have been affected the strange occurrence during the past six weeks.
The issue was raised this past week by opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarian, Vincent Henry during his contribution to the 2023 National Budget debate. He urged the Ministry of Education to address that “strange phenomenon” that has been happening at several schools including the St Ignatius Secondary School. “Mr. Speaker, one such episode happened just a few days ago at the St. Ignatius School, when some students displayed paranormal behaviours during school hours. To date the Ministry of Education is yet to make any comprehensive attempt to mitigate this serious problem,” said Mr Henry whose Guyana Action Party is an APNU affiliate. He questioned whether the People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-led administration was awaiting deaths before taking remedial action.
In an invited comment, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand told Demerara Waves Online News that government has sought medical help but it is not clear what is responsible for the students behaving strangely, though she said there was no evidence of drug use. “This isn’t new. This happens and has been happening for as long as we had dorms. Nothing is ruled out but there is no evidence of drug use. Some suggest mass hysteria, some suggest paranormal behaviour etc.” she said. Ms Manickchand said the Education Ministry was ready to work with all stakeholders.
Regional Executive Officer for Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo), Karl Singh believed that the occurrences are “spiritual” as it could not be attributed to unsanitary conditions because the school has been cleansed. “It is something like a fit, they (students) are very strong. I believe it is something spiritual but we are trying with it…When we try to hold the students down, they kicked away a teacher ,” he told Demerara Waves Online News. He said when the students recover, they sometimes tell teachers and officials that “they are seeing things in the compound.”
Mr Singh said over the years, there have been instances of “mass hysteria” at schools dormitories such as the one at Sand Creek but this is the first time that students in Region Nine have been affected at a school.
The REO said regional authorities have been cleaning, including fumigating, the school and have asked the church to assist. “It eases and then sometimes it comes back,” he sad. Mr Singh said different students are affected on each occasion and they come from different grades/ forms/ classes. Since the intervention of the church he said there had been fewer attacks and the number of victims has also reduced.
Mr Singh said school attendance is usually affected shortly after one of the attacks because students are scared. In that regard, he said teachers have been sending work to the homes of absent children and there have been Online classes.
A woman, who is currently overseas, said her son was among several St Ignatius Secondary School students who had stayed away. “Today he is home again and I asked what happened he said ‘mum I am scared to go to school yesterday there were some kids getting the demon attack’,” the woman said.
There are concerns about the adverse impact that this phenomenon is having on children who have special needs.