Caught in African Hair

The Pretoria Girls High has had a complicated few weeks and on the 22nd I attended a press conference they held at Boston Media House in Sandton. The Press Conference was dedicated to the issue concerning what is to be done about African female’s hair and the protests that had arisen on the 29th of August 2016, from that specific issue. The protest specifically against hair policies in the school’s code of conduct.

To my understanding, there was a disputation on whether or not African female’s hair should be cut, relaxed or tied up when in school, and this in return caused uproar in public opinion, this including the public, the media and celebrities not only locally but internationally as well. An intervention by the Gauteng Education MEC, Mr Panyaza Lesufi had to take place which then led to the review on the hair policy as many viewed it as ‘anti-black’ or in simpler terms, racist.

The press kit provided at the conference states; ‘After endless meetings that were attended by the school governing body, RCL and the Gauteng Education MEC, the school decided to suspend its hair policy’. Mr. Lesufi stated; ‘There will be no learner that will be victimized purely because of their hairstyle until the school’s governing body has finalized a new code of conduct that deals specifically with these issues’.

During the press conference I asked one of the representatives on the public relations panel whether or not the fact that teachers and students are able to cause a disturbance of this magnitude should reflect on how the school approaches discipline and focuses on education. The response unsatisfactory as one of the representatives stated; ‘ Last year we got 99.6% on our matric results and 458 distinctions so we think very good’, as I was not allowed to ask follow up questions, I believe that this answer was too vague and leads me to question the standard of education at Pretoria Girls High.

This incident has unfortunately reflected badly upon Pretoria Girls High and has damaged their reputation inevitably. Although it is encouraged to enforce school rules and policies it should not be encouraged to oppress learners. In the same breath schools show not allow negligent conduct towards other learners who are willing to learn but are being prevented by outraged and emotional barriers that could have been foreseen and altered.

The panel apologized on the behalf of the school and encourages other schools to also take the necessary action and review school policies regarding hair and the equal treatment of learners to prevent the same results.

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