A South African school has been accused of racism for allegedly telling black girls to straighten their hair and not wear afros.
Pupils at Pretoria high school for girls have said they were forced to chemically straighten their hair and not have afros that were deemed untidy. Over the weekend, students donning afro hairstyles and braids held a protest at the school to voice anger against the alleged longstanding rule.
Politicians weighed in on the row, with the Economic Freedom Fighters party accusing the school of seeking “to directly suppress blackness in its aesthetics and culture”.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, tweeted:
On Monday, Panyaza Lesufi, the minister of the education department in Gauteng province, visited the government-run school for talks with senior staff and students. “I really want to arrest the situation before it gets out of control,” Lesufi said.
An online petition against the school’s alleged policy has gathered more than 10,000 signatures since it was created on Friday. The petition, titled Stop Racism at Pretoria Girls High, calls on authorities to ensure that the “school’s code of conduct does not discriminate against black and Muslim girls”.
“We are being discriminated against because of our hair. They want us to relax our hair – they want our hair to look a certain way,” an anonymous student told the PowerFM radio station.
The prestigious school in Pretoria was historically attended by whites only but now admits black children following the end of apartheid in 1994. The school’s code of conduct (pdf) has a detailed list of rules about hair, but does not specifically mention the afro hairstyle, according to the BBC.
South Africa is still grappling with racial issues 22 years after the end of white-minority rule.
Black students at the school also alleged on social media that they were not allowed to speak ethnic languages to one other.
Disagreements over students’ hairstyles have previously arisen in South African schools, with some parents accusing education authorities of racism.
Original Article – Agence France-Presse: