Pretoria Girls High School is facing a furious backlash after allegedly instructing black school pupils to straighten their hair.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is due to visit the school on Monday to address the controversy as more than 4500 people signed a petition calling for his intervention.
#StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh was trending on social media on Monday. Videos and photographs of pupils protesting at the school‚ one of the pupils sporting an afro‚ went viral over the weekend.
Lesufi was inundated with requests on social media to investigate various allegations against the school and voiced his concern over police being summoned to the school when pupils protested about the hair policy.
Lesufi told PowerFM on Monday that pupils were writing examinations and he had decided to intervene swiftly after seeing the petition.
He had received complaints about the hair policy‚ allegations that pupils in groups of two or more were being stopped and asked questions – after an earlier protest by pupils – and was told that teachers prevented pupils from speaking African languages.
“These are issues that you can’t just leave to chance. Let me go there‚ allow the school to present their side of the story but at the same time allow learners to put their side of the story‚” he said.
“I really want to arrest the situation before it gets out of control.”
Lesufi said he had intervened in a similar confrontation at Bryanston High School where a white pupil challenged a policy stating that boys’ hair was not allowed below the ears.
“Tomorrow you must show those Pretoria bafoons flames comrade‚” Simon Nare implored Lesufi on twitter on Sunday.
“Leave that with me and my team. It will be done. We won’t disappoint‚” replied Lesufi. “I am going there tomorrow morning to sort it out‚” he said.
The petition called on Lesufi and the school headmistress to ensure that black and Muslim pupils were not discriminated against‚ to protect pupils who protested against victimisation and to take disciplinary action against teachers and staff who implemented racist policies.
“Right now‚ learners at Pretoria High school are demanding that racist practices at the school are brought to an end‚” said the petition.
“Girls attending the school have been forced to straighten their hair; are accused of conspiring when standing in groups and face other intolerable comments and actions.
“We stand in solidarity with the learners‚ who marched at the school on the 26th to say enough is enough. It is unacceptable that in a country in which Black people are a demographic majority‚ we still today continue to be expected to pander to whiteness and to have it enforced through school policy.”
The 36-page-long conduct for learners at the school does not specifically outlaw afro hairstyles. “All styles should be conservative‚ neat and in keeping with a school uniform. No eccentric/fashion styles will be allowed‚” it reads.
The hairstyle policy notes that hair must be brushed‚ neatly tied back if long enough‚ be kept off the face‚ no dyeing‚ bleaching‚ colouring or shaving.
“Cornrows‚ natural dreadlocks and singles/braids (with or without extensions) are allowed‚ provided they are a maximum of 10mm in diameter. Singles/braids must be the same length and be the natural colour of the girl’s hair.”