Parents on the island of Maamendhoo in Laamu atoll have accused an islander of practicing sorcery on school girls to induce fainting spells and hysteria.
Speaking to Minivan News, the parents said girls in grades nine and 10 began experiencing problems after a game of bashi earlier this year.
“Our children haven’t been able to study ever since,” said a father of two girls in the island school. “They suffer aches all over their body and they faint and have to be carried home.”
He added that some parents have transferred their children to the school in nearby Maavah, while the lives of his own daughters had been “destroyed”.
Five or six girls were believed to have been affected, he said, and often had to be carried by ambulance to the health centre after fainting in class.
In May, he continued, the parents decided that a man from Thaa atoll Thimarafushi, married to a woman living in Maamendhoo, was responsible for the trouble.
The man was taken into custody and investigated after the parents lodged complaints with police. A police media spokesperson confirmed that police had investigated a sorcery case in Maamendhoo.
The father said police have since informed the parents that the case has been sent to the prosecutor general’s office.
Apart from fainting spells, he said, his daughters went into trances, became hysterical and “talked gibberish”.
The mother of a 16-year-old girl said she had to take her daughter home from school almost every day after she started fainting.
“Parents are afraid to send their children to school now,” she said.
Both parents said all the girls had been tested at the regional hospital in Gan as well as hospitals in Male’, but the doctors said there was nothing wrong with them.
“I don’t believe it can be anything other than fanditha,” said the father.
He said the parents discovered who was responsible after the alleged fanditha man (sorcerer) offered to cure the girls.
“He came to our house and said I can cure them, it’s no problem,” he said, adding the man concocted a drink with zamzam water and a variety of flowers.
When he confronted the fanditha man after growing suspicious of his proffered cures, he said, the man admitted to practicing sorcery on the girls.
“He said to me there’s nothing I can do to stop him and that he’ll do whatever he likes,” he said.
The parents also accused the island authorities of failing to help them cure their children.
Maamendhoo councilor Abubakuru Hussein said the authorities had done everything they could to provide assistance, including taking the girls to hospital and covering the travel expenses of an investigations team from the education ministry.
The team, consisting of a counselor and a religious scholar, determined that the girls were “faking it” to avoid studying, noting that all the girls involved were poor students.
“I don’t believe he knows the kind of fanditha to do this to so many girls,” Abubakuru said.
The councilor speculated that a likelier explanation for the fainting was the smell of chemicals emanating from a fibre factory near the school.
“One parent is working tirelessly to force the [fanditha] man out,” he said. “I have been telling him we don’t have the authority to search people for talismans.”