FIFTY-SIX Grade Four pupils from Sigombe Primary School in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb have been hospitalised with one reported to be in a criticial condition at Mpilo Central Hospital after eating poisonous jatropha fruits.
The pupils were rushed by ambulances to the hospital yesterday after eating the poisonous fruit.
Mpilo Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya confirmed the admission of the affected pupils.
“I can confirm that 56 pupils; 22 girls and 34 boys are admitted at the hospital. One is critical and is in the intensive care unit. The rest l have instructed doctors to assess them and they will be receiving treatment,” he said.
Dr Ngwenya said jatropha is a multi-purpose tree which can be used to produce soap, lubricants, biodiesel and also helps in soil conservation.
“When one ingests the seeds, which is never advisable, they will experience severe vomiting, loose stools and abdominal pain which can be fatal. This is why we want these children to be closely monitored because we may not know the degree of the poisoning,” he said.
Dr Ngwenya said institutions, especially those dealing with children, should not plant jatropha as it is harmful.
“I urge schools not to plant such trees because they pose danger and put children’s lives at risk. Some countries have banned this tree. Imagine that only three seeds of Jatropha can destroy someone’s health,” he said.
Bulawayo Acting Provincial Education Director Mrs Olicah Kaira said this is the second incident involving the hospitalisation of pupils after eating jatropha.
“This is the second incident in Bulawayo. It happened at Manondwane Primary school in Nketa a couple of years back and it shows that pupils are not being taught about the harmful effects of this plant,” she said.
Mrs Kaira said her Ministry would engage schools to teach children about the harmful effects of some wild fruits.
The Chronicle visited the paediatric ward at Mpilo yesterday afternoon and found a hive of activity as nurses were attending to the pupils. One pupil who was critical was put on an intravenous drip as she was dehydrated.
A parent, Mr Norbert Moyo, said he rushed to the hospital after learning of the incident.
He said the school should cut down the tree to prevent a repeat of the horrific incident.
“The previous incident at a school in Nketa should have been a wake-up call for schools especially with primary school kids. They should remove such trees because our children are at risk. Look now l am not even stable,” Mr Moyo said.