SCHOOLS have been urged to get rid of or fence off Jatropha trees in the wake of the hospitalisation of 59 Grade Four pupils last Friday after eating the plant’s poisonous seeds.
The pupils, from Sigombe Primary School in Bulawayo’s Nkulumane suburb, have since been discharged from hospital.
Mpilo Central Hospital Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said jatropha seeds were very poisonous and were not safe in an environment with children.
“Any place that grows jatropha plants is not a child friendly environment, but schools must be the most child friendly places. Just three seeds of the plant are powerful enough to kill an adult, what more a child. We were just lucky that those children survived, perhaps because they did not ingest so much of it.
“We urge schools to totally get rid of the plants if possible, or to fence them off and keep them under lock and key, that is if they really have use for the trees. Child safety must come first before anything else,” said Dr Ngwenya.
He said the children, who were rushed to Mpilo Central Hospital on Friday after eating the poisonous seeds, were discharged from the hospital on Saturday and were stable.
“We are glad to say that the children are out of danger now. They were discharged yesterday (Saturday) and have fully recovered. Parents and teachers must teach children not to just eat any fruit that they do not know.
“Children are curious by nature, however it is the duty of elders to teach children not to eat strange fruits, no matter how attractive they are,” said Dr Ngwenya.
He said three more pupils were rushed to hospital on Friday, bringing the total number of pupils to 59, of which 25 were girls and 34 were boys.
“Jatropha poisoning affects children as the fruits appear attractive and some may be sweet. They present with vomiting and abdominal pains two to six hours after ingesting the seeds,” said Dr Ngwenya.
In 2014, 24 Grade 1 pupils from St Joseph’s School in Beitbridge were hospitalised after eating the poisonous seeds.
In May 2016, 32 Grade Two pupils from Manondwane Primary School in Nketa 7 suburb in Bulawayo were rushed to Mpilo Central Hospital after eating poisonous jatropha fruits.
This prompted the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to order the cutting of all Jatropha trees at schools.Chronicle