Mystery illness strikes again at Santa Rosa school

Some students of the Santa Rosa Secondary School, Moruka, North West District, continue to suffer from a “mystery illness,” that has seen them plagued by headaches and abdominal pains with as yet, no medical explanation.
As a result, an emergency meeting was summoned on Tuesday afternoon and a decision was taken to move classes to an alternate location, while religious persons within the village will be praying and fasting at the school’s premises for the next three days.

Reports reaching Stabroek News yesterday revealed that the children were suffering from headaches and severe abdominal pain and some of them were complaining about seeing strange objects. On several occasions they were taken to the Kumaka District Hospital but there was nothing medically wrong with them. Stabroek News was told that some 22 students were affected out of the 550 student population. However, it was noted that while the other children were not ill they were very fearful and some of them were staying away from classes. Teachers also have become fearful and the school was forced to call the emergency meeting to deal with the issue.

There was a similar occurrence at the school last November. At the time, the police had said that several students residing in the female dormitory of the school were hospitalised with a mysterious illness. Within a two-day period, 13 female students who occupied the dormitory complained of headaches and stomach pains and “were behaving in an unusual manner.” They were examined at the Kumaka District Hospital where two of them were admitted for observation.

It was concluded that the girls may have been suffering from food poisoning. But according to a source from the school, officials from “the Ministry of Health and some foreign doctors” went into the area and did not find any evidence of food poisoning. The source said tests were done on the water and air at the school and “nothing was found to be wrong”.

This newspaper was told that on January 9 more children came down with the illness but after January 22 things went back to normal. On February 9 the same thing happened up until February 13. On March 5, the children again became ill and some are still ill. It was at this point the teachers and parents decided to call the meeting. “The classes are being affected as teachers and students are afraid and some of them are staying away from school,” the source said yesterday.
One villager who was present at the meeting said the children were becoming violent as during their bouts of illness they were kicking and screaming. “Something needs to be done, we can’t continue like this, I don’t know what is causing the illness…. We need to do something,” the source said.

Parents are removing their children from the dormitory, according to senior personnel at the school, who indicated that most of the students have been removed from the facility within the past few weeks.

Of major concern to the parents and students as well as villagers of Moruka is that the fact that not only children living in the dormitory are being affected by the illness. Children from the village have been affected as well.

According to reports, parents were voting to close the school’s doors until the issue was addressed but Regional Education Officer of Region One, Nigel Richards, who was present at the meeting, informed parents that they did not have the authority to close the school. He indicated that if they so desired they could keep their children at home.

The school’s population is calling on the Ministry of Education to send officials into the area to deal with the issue for once and for all.

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