At least 24 pupils from Gwinyai Primary School in Mbare, Harare, were yesterday admitted at Harare Central Hospital after eating jatropha fruits.
When NewsDay visited the hospital, ambulances were busy ferrying pupils, six of whom were visibly seriously ill and had been placed on drips.
In an interview, a pupil said she took the fruit after she was convinced by a fellow student that it was edible and tasted like groundnuts.
According to a teacher at the school, the jatropha plants were grown at the school as an ambitious project following a government spearheaded programme encouraging communities to cultivate the plants for purposes of extracting oil from its seed for energy purposes. Jatropha was also grown for shrubbery in the school garden.
The children’s parents blamed school authorities for failing to inform the pupils that the fruits were not edible.
“The school authorities are careless. They should not let these children come close to such a plant. We now call upon them to cut down the plants altogether,” Elizabeth Joronga said.
Efforts to get a comment from the hospital authorities were fruitless as the chief executive officer Peggy Zvavamwe was reportedly on leave.