A deserted house and shattered glasses symbolise the hell that befell Chrisbren Mchuchu, head teacher of Nachitheme Secondary School in Ntcheu, who was hounded out of the school on allegations that he engages in satanism.
The house is covered with black soot on its inside walls emanating from a fire that students started in a three-hour orgy of destruction on Monday night.
Mchuchu, 52, has relocated to his home, Chidothi Village, T/A Chilikumwendo in Dedza.
Police, who arrived at the scene later, fired in the air to disperse the students who went on the rampage in protest at rumoured deaths of their colleagues.
The incident disrupted classes on Tuesday. But classes have resumed as witnessed by Nation Online which visited the school on Wednesday.
However, teachers said there was a low turn-up.
Speaking from Dedza on Thursday, Mchuchu said the incident has traumatised him and his family.
He denied the allegations that he is a satanist.
“I am a born-again Christian,” he said.
Recalling the incident, Mchuchu said on Monday there was a strong rumour that three students, day scholars, had died.
“I went to visit one of the said students with three teachers. When we came back the (day scholars) students had gone. But the deputy briefed me that there was a rumour that three other students had died. She briefed me that there was tension.
“I went to police to inform them and when I was coming back the tension was high. Students stoned my vehicle and I drove back to police with my wife. Whilst there, the deputy head teacher informed me that my house was torched,” he said.
Mchuchu said teachers had intended to meet the students on various issues, including the response to a letter the students wrote and pasted on the wall of a toilet.
But the letter, titled â€˜Lifeâ€™, which is in our possession, lists other issues, not satanism.
Mchuchu, who has served at the school for about two years, confirmed that two students died from different ailments.
“At the beginning of this term, one student died. She had a cardiac problem. She had pipes inserted in her arteries to support her heart. We were informed that one of the pipes blocked and in an attempt to unblock it at the hospital she died.
“A week or two thereafter, another student who was sick passed away at Balaka District Hospital where she was receiving treatment,” he said.
Alice Majankono, the schoolâ€™s deputy head teacher, corroborated Mchuchuâ€™s story, but said the school is investigating the trigger of the situation.
“There are, of course, those allegations (of satanism), but we have no evidence. The school is investigating the matter,” said Manjankono.
She said the letter that students wrote outlines several allegations, but before the issue was dealt with the students went on a rampage, torching the head teacherâ€™s house.
“We watched from a distance the stoning and torching of the house. It was a lucky escape for the headmaster and his wife. If there were children around, it could have been a different story.
“Police arrived when damage was already done. Clothes, beddings and some electrical gadgets are among the items that were destroyed in the fire. The irate students also stoned passing vehicles on the (M5) road,” said Majankono.
She also said the students who died succumbed to long illnesses and there are medical reports to that effect.
“One of the students, Bessie Chisale, succumbed to a cardiac problem. She was once treated in South Africa and had tubes inserted in her heart. She died while undergoing surgery in hospital where they were trying to unblock the tubes. That is the medical history we got at the funeral. The other girl, Nema James, also died in hospital.
“But the other girl whom they were alleging that she had died on Monday is alive and teachers visited her at home,” said Majankono.
For the students, the deaths of Bessie, who was in Form Four, and Nema, a Form Two student, remain a mystery.
But the schoolâ€™s head boy, Dickson Sithole, and head girl, Eliza Banda, could not emphatically point an accusing finger at the head teacher.
“Several students have died recently. Their deaths are mysterious. No student had died here before 2010,” said Sithole.
Mchuchu was transferred to the school in 2010.
The school prefects, who reside outside the school because there are no hostels to accommodate them, said they heard about the fire, but could not intervene because the students were violent.
Sithole and Banda said they read the letter from the students, but they had no idea who wrote it.
Reads the letter in part: “Students of Nachitheme refuse to be nothing, we shall say something even if it means exclusion from school. We should ask ourselves questions like how many students have been excluded from school because of dropping trousers? Where is disco which we used to have two times per term?”
Ntcheu Police public relations officer Alice Sankhulani said police have not made any arrests, but investigations are underway.
Sankhulani could not give the value of the property damaged.