Education dept to hold public hearings on school codes amid outcry over hair

2016-08-31 21:30
Pupils from Pretoria High School for Girls. (News24)

Pupils from Pretoria High School for Girls. (News24)

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Pretoria - The Department of Basic Education is to hold public hearings to come up with codes of conduct that do not infringe on the rights of pupils.

Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department has been reviewing the codes of conduct but following the recent protests, they would be opening the process to the public so that parents can also provide input.

"We started last year already reviewing the laws that have got to do with education and we are still looking at the pieces of legislation that affect governance, the work of school governing bodies and related regulations," Mhlanga told News24.

"This one [hair policy] will have to be attended to as well because it's an issue and something we need to attend to as a department. We will make sure that it gets reviewed and when we get to the public participation phase, we hope that members of the public will assist us with ideas on how these things can be done."

The scrutiny of the clause relating to hair and how it should be worn at school follows a protest by learners from Pretoria High School for Girls where pupils accused the school of being racist for not allowing them to wear certain hairstyles for natural hair.

The protest saw Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi visiting the school and suspending the clause. He also instituted an investigation with a time frame of 21 days.

That protest opened the doors for other learners from other schools to raise similar issues and schools in other provinces deciding to review their policies.

Department hoping for suggestions

The St Michael's School for Girls in Bloemfontein said it would be re-evaluating its hair policy after several parents raised concerns about hair inspections targeting black girls at the school.

This after a picture showing some of the girls fitting swimming caps on their heads to check the level of their hair's neatness made the rounds on social media on Monday.

On Tuesday morning some parents accompanied their daughters to school to raise their concerns. 

Parktown High School for Girls has also amended its hair policy as the issue gains traction throughout schools in the country. The school had been trying to address racism proactively, instead of reactively, it said in a post on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

It had been holding workshops about race, racism and diversity, and was trying to ensure there was no subtle or structural racism.

Pupils from Lawson Brown High School in Port Elizabeth also protested on Tuesday over alleged racist attacks regarding their natural hair.

Mhlanga said the protests indicated that the issues were very topical and had to be addressed accordingly.

"Judging from the huge interest that is currently prevalent, we hope that people will come up with suggestions on how best to do these things," he said.

Read more on:    education  |  racism

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