The first day of the term proved a disappointment for some pupils in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas yesterday when they were turned away from school.
They were denied entry for owing money while others were sent home for having “holiday hair”.
The affected schools included Hillside, Bethelsdorp and Gelvandale high schools.
Children claim they were refused entry after their failure to pay “fundraising levies” last year.
A Grade 11 Hillside pupil, accompanied by six of his peers at the SA Communist Party (SACP) office in Salt Lake, said the school had no right to kick them out.
“It is our right to be educated, whether we have money for school fees or not is no reason to kick us out. Now even worse we get kicked out for fundraising money!”
A fellow Hillside Grade 11 said: “Our families are struggling as it is. We have to support our own charity which are the hungry mouths at our house. Now we have missed the first day because of charity money. We are in Grade 11, one of the most important schooling years, and we are already a day behind.”
SACP northern areas coordinator Wayne Jaggers said it was unconstitutional to prevent children from attending classes.
“This morning we had 22 cases from Bethelsdorp High and more than 10 from Hillside. It is against the law to turn a child away at a public school. The letters refer to the amounts as administration fees but it is for things such as bingo and raffles which need to be paid.
“These schools are paid for by the government, not the principals. They have no right to turn students away,” Jaggers said.
At Gelvandale High, several pupils were asked to leave after failing to get rid of their “holiday hair”, according to Grade 10 pupil Larshanay van Rensburg.
“I was told I had to go home because of my holiday hair colour. But this is my natural hair colour. I have had this hair all my life.”
Grade 11 Gelvandale High pupil Chrisenthae Adonis said: “I was kicked out of school for having braids in my hair, but look around the field, there are a lot of children with braided hair.
“Why didn’t they just give us a letter to say we must fix it by next week instead of kicking us out and missing the first day?”
On a visit to the area, Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle said: “It is a violation of the constitution to refuse children access to schooling. I am making a appeal to the principals of the relevant schools to allow them in.”
– Tremain van Aardt