Koena Mashali, the Sowetan
Chaos at school as scores of learners eat cannabis-infused muffins prompting an anxious rush of parents, emergency workers and ambulances to the scene.
There were scenes of chaos at Pulamadibogo Primary School yesterday after the mass consumption of cannabis-infused muffins, also known as “Space Cookies”. The incident put pressure of Soshanguve health facilities as the kids were taken for medical examination.
A parent at Primary School north of Pretoria, described to the Sowetan how confused she was at seeing many ambulances at her child's school
Gauteng Health said 90 pupils were rushed to healthcare facilities in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, on Wednesday 20 September 2023, for medical examination after 'consuming muffins allegedly laced with dagga.'
“I rushed to the school and went to my child's class and after realising she was fine, I attended to other kids. I was confused to see so many ambulances, I thought some kids had died,” said the parent who can't be named to protect the identity of her child.
There were chaotic scenes at the school as more parents arrived to fetch their children.
“I saw people entering the school premises and thought there was a meeting. I then saw a police van and ambulances. I went to the school and kids saw children being loaded onto ambulances. Parents were told to wait at the school,” said a parent.
It is alleged the children who fell ill had bought the muffins for R2 each. Such baked products mixed with dagga (cannabis) are also known in the streets as space cookies.
An employee at the school told Sowetan that some of the children started acting weird while others fell ill instantly.
“We cannot say it's the porridge that we give them in the morning because most of the learners who were taken to the principal's office after acting strange said they ate the muffins they bought from two guys,” she said.
Another parent said her daughter did not have any money on her and ate a cake she was given by her friend.
“I got a WhatsApp message that I should rush to school and that there has been an accident. When I got here, I was informed that my child has been taken to the clinic as she was seeing Spider-Man. I have never seen anything like this before.”
Another parent whose child was taken to a clinic said her daughter got R2 from her grandmother.
Her 10-year-old daughter told Sowetan: “I bought the muffin with the R2 that I was given by my granny in the morning. After eating the cake, I had a terrible headache. I wanted to vomit but I couldn't. I reported the matter to the teacher.
“At the clinic they examined and then injected me. The nurses told me to rush to the hospital if I feel sick again,” she said.
Department of education spokesperson Steve Mabona said: “Educators witnessed strange behaviour from the learners in class and immediately called emergency services.
“Police have visited the school and subsequently, the street vendor was identified and police will conduct their investigation accordingly,” said Mabona.
The Gauteng department of education said the learners were rushed to local medical facilities after experiencing nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting from the alleged cookies.
According to the department's spokesperson, Steve Mabona, the learners had consumed muffins laced with dagga which had been bought from a street vendor.
“According to information at our disposal, approximately 90 learners from grade R to 7 consumed what looked like muffins, suspected to be laced with dagga [space cookies], which they bought from a street vendor on their way to school. Educators witnessed strange behaviour from the learners in class and immediately called emergency services for necessary support,” said Mabona.
Mabona said the affected pupils were attended by emergency services on school premises.
“However, they were all subsequently rushed to different medical facilities where their condition will be monitored,” said Mabona.
He said the incident has caused distress among parents who had come to the school.
Gauteng education MEC Matome Chiloane is concerned about the incident.
“Indeed, this is concerning for us and we call for patience from parents while investigations are underway and learners are recovering. "
Dr Nellie Sibisi-Zimu said dagga generally has a relaxing effect on one's mind.
“It is one of those substances that have a relaxing effect on the mind because that is how you find a whole lot of people whenever they are anxious or feeling stressed they end up taking dagga. Obviously young people will take dagga as a form of experimentation but then upon realising the calming and relaxing effect it has on them, then they end up using it regularly to deal with their problems,” said Sibisi-Zimu.
She said when people take dagga under general circumstances they would sit there and not really do anything, “but then with some people, because they are not so relaxed, their inhibitions are done with and they become unhinged”.
Sibisi-Zimu said that in the case of the pupils it was different because instead of the pupils experiencing this relaxing state, they fell violently sick, vomiting and having stomach cramps.
“These were physical symptoms and I suspect that it has a lot to do with how they [space cookies] were made and whether they were cooked properly.
“The unfortunate thing that needs to be discussed is if we are talking about pure dagga or dagga mixed with something else,” said Sibisi-Zimu.
“From the mental health perspective we would have expected the children to have some sort of psychosis, disorganised behaviour because dagga does cause psychosis, we would have expected the children to be laughing and just hanging off their seats but this is over and above that expectation.”
Sibisi-Zimu said the kids need to be monitored.
“There needs to be an expectation that the central nervous system may be affected due to this because now it's just gastric systems, especially within a population this young, there has to be a need be caution because there are many elements in this, maybe food poisoning.”
be vigilant of what they purchase and consume and be cautious of who they purchase food from.