'Cult' Forces 56 Girls From Eaglesvale

Harare, Zimbabwe - Eaglesvale High School has lost 56 students amid reports of mass hysteria blamed on a "cult" that has seen two students chucked out of their hostels for allegedly leading unsanctioned religious meetings on school premises and causing hysteria among fellow students.

It is alleged that the girls -- who are believed to be ringleaders of a "cult" -- mobilised others in the hostels to join them and their "followers" are now speaking in tongues, fighting and damaging walls and windows.

As a result, it is understood that about 56 parents have withdrawn their children from the school to keep them away from the two girls.

Last Friday, parents of the two expelled "ringleaders" filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking their children's immediate reinstatement.

The two are due to start writing Ordinary Level examinations later this month.

The application is yet to be set down for hearing before Justice Susan Mavangira.

In the joint application by mothers of the two students, the headmaster, board of trustees chairman and Education Minister David Coltart are cited as respondents.

The parents are arguing that it is prejudicial to their daughters to commute to school for examinations when they had paid boarding fees.

It was submitted that they risked missing their examinations owing to transport problems, with one stating that she lived in Norton, about 40km outside Harare.

The parents claim that they received phone calls from their daughters informing them of the expulsion at around 3pm on November 10.

Within the next hour, they say, they were at the headmaster's office.

On arrival, the women claim, they had a meeting with the headmaster and two other staffers.

"First respondent (headmaster) was surprisingly very emotional and headstrong. He advised me that on November 4, there had been a spate of religious meetings at the school.

"That the meetings had turned fervent with the participating students being violent.

"Students would 'speak in tongues', hitting the walls and windows. Some students had even gone to the extent of 'prophesying' against others, thereby harassing others," said the mothers.

They claim the headmaster told them that investigations at the school revealed that the two girls were the ringleaders and that they had coerced and threatened their juniors to attend their religious meetings.

"(He said) that 56 parents had so far withdrawn their children from the school over the said meetings."

The women submitted that their children denied the charges preferred against them and that the headmaster should have contacted the parents before expelling them.

"I humbly submit that first respondent's (headmaster) decision was not only legally incorrect, but also morally wrong.

The mothers are seeking an order for reinstatement of their daughters into the hostels and that the girls' stay at the school should not be disturbed.

The headmaster, chairman and Minister Coltart were yet to respond to the application.