Pretoria – Black pupils at Pretoria High School for Girls were victims of racism and the school’s hair policy was enforced without sensitivity, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Friday.
Black pupils’ dignity was violated on numerous occasions, he said at the release of a report into the school.
Some teachers enforced the school’s hair policy without sensitivity. Black girls were randomly pulled out of assembly and told to "fix" their hair.
Black pupils were told to stand in groups according to their ethnic background, while white girls remained seated, according to one incident detailed in the report.
There were cases where black children were called monkeys, he said.
The report’s recommendations include that action be taken against the teachers responsible and that the school’s code of conduct be reviewed. The school should implement diversity training and cultural awareness programmes.
Within three months of the diversity training, an independent agency had to conduct an anonymous "cultural survey" to get the views of pupils on progress made.
Traumatic and humiliating experience
Lesufi apologised to those affected by the traumatic and humiliating experience of racial abuse.
He said it was one of the leading schools in the province and its reputation needed to be guarded jealously.
The department intended working with the school to rebuild a culture of trust and mutual respect among teachers, parents, and pupils, he said.
In August, black pupils protested against the school's code of conduct, saying it imposed unfair restrictions on how they could wear their hair.
The girls said school rules prohibited African hairstyles such as afros, Bantu knots, dreadlocks, and braids.
The Congress of SA Students was one of the groups at Friday’s meeting. The organisation told Lesufi to look at diversity in the school's staff complement, as most of its teachers were white.