The education ministry has launched an investigation to help determine the protocol for school devotions after approximately 200 students fainted during devotion at Oberlin High School on Wednesday morning.
"While we encourage devotion in school, our school leaders have a responsibility to exercise caution as to content and likely impact on students as evidenced by the reaction of students at Oberlin High School...," Education Minister Fayval Williams said.
Wednesday's bizarre fainting incident was described by a staff member as "children dropping like flies". The incident reportedly occurred after a teacher shared a word from God.
The staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Jamaica Observer that the message the teacher shared was to encourage an end to killings in schools.
Speaking about the atmosphere at the school during the incident, the staff member said after classes had been dismissed, students leaving the school were still fainting, resulting in passers-by stopping to assist. This, she said, caused a halt to traffic in front of the school.
She recalled students being scared.
"It is demonicâ€¦This is an experience I've never seen before, but parents need to put their children before God. We left God out of our home, we left God out of our schools, and persons [are] using the church as a scapegoat to do whatever they want to do, to live however they want to live. Once we are not covered we are open to everything," the staff member said.
She added that she, too, got terrified and that this incident only strengthened the desire to "live closer to God".
The affected students were reportedly transported to Lawrence Tavern Health Centre, Stony Hill Health Centre, and Kingston Public Hospital.
When the Observer arrived at the school the principal and board members were in a meeting discussing the incident and to prepare an adequate response. It is understood that the principal met with a representative from the education ministry on Wednesday evening, and school is expected to resume on Thursday.
In a subsequent press release Acting Principal Antonnette Gray sought to clarify the occurrences. She said: "On Wednesday at 7:40 am the school convened for general assembly. One of the teachers had previously expressed her desire to pass on a 'word for the students', and she was given the opportunity to share that message. After the message was passed on, a number of students collapsed."
Gray continued, "Based on my humble opinion, during the worship some students were overpowered by the anointing and started to worship aloud while a few others had to be taken to the nurse because they could not control themselves, and a few had also fainted. We believe that some of the students, seeing what was happening, naturally became afraid."
The acting principal went on to say that as a result of the complexity of the situation, and the fact that some students were unsettled, school was dismissed at 10:00 am, with only the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) students allowed to remain so they could collect their lunches.
Meanwhile, Icilyn Black told the Observer how she and her church members fought to help a female student who had been brought to the Greater Works Apostolic House of Praise, located near the school.
Black said the girl had a "fierce" look in her eyes and she was instructed by the "Spirit" to use olive oil in the girl's mouth to rid her of a demonic force, and she believed they were successful in doing so.
Black also encouraged the public to turn to God for protection.
"We need to pray and fast more, we need to reach out to God more. Who don't see seh a end of time now? The devil is out raging like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. What [needs] to happen now cannot be done without fasting," she said.
In the meantime, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew West Rural, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn said after learning of the incident she called the acting principal to discuss whether or not chemicals had been released in the air which may have caused the fainting spells, but this was not confirmed to be the case.
"I couldn't understand what could have happened to make them faint," Cuthbert-Flynn told the Observer, adding that she went to the school to assess the situation and lend a helping hand.
The MP went on to say she is confident the education ministry will do the necessary assessments, with its team of psychologists and social workers, and provide the help the affected students need.