Hyde Park High School pupil: ‘I was made to feel that my hair carries very little worth’

Zoe is not pictured. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Zoe is not pictured. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

A Grade 9 pupil from Hyde Park High School in Johannesburg made headlines when she was given detention for her natural hair.

Zoe Chibuye said that she was late for school on a Friday morning and was waiting in line to sign in for her tardiness when an office assistant approached her and gave her detention because she felt her hair as a “distraction”. 

Although shocking, the 13-year-old’s experience is no different from the story which made headlines in 2016, where black girls from Pretoria High School for Girls protested against the school’s code of conduct which allegedly didn’t allow them to wear their African hair naturally.

Speaking to DRUM, Zoe’s mother Gloria Chibuye said she was in complete shock when she found out what the office assistant had said to her daughter.

“She usually has her hair in braids, but her hair needed a break so I styled it in a simple Afro puff,” she explained. Gloria firmly believes Zoe didn’t violate the school’s code of conduct.

“The code of conduct states that hair should be ‘neat and kept away from the face and tied up if it’s long’, which was the case with Zoe,” the concerned mother said.

“I really think white teachers should educate themselves on African hair because this sort of ignorance should not go any further,” Gloria said. 

She added that she isn’t accusing the teacher of racism, but expects her to understand how African hair is and that there’s nothing wrong with it at all.

The concerned mother said her daughter was also still in a state of shock and the experience has made her feel as though her hair isn’t worthy of being embraced.

“At first I was really confused about how my hair is considered ‘attention-grabbing’ because it was not in my face and it was tied up. The experience made me feel as though my hair carries very little worth and that only straight hair is what everyone should have on their heads,” Zoe said.

She added that she was also surprised that she was being reprimanded by the office assistant because it is out of her jurisdiction. Zoe has been going to school as normal since he incident and won’t be required to serve her punishment on Thursday. 

“I’m actually quite relieved that there has been an overwhelming amount of people on social media and everywhere else speaking up against this, and for that reason I think fellow black girls won’t be shunned for coming to school with their natural hair,” she said. 

DRUM contacted Hyde Park High but we were referred to a member of the school governing body who refused to comment. 

Gauteng education department (GED) spokesperson Steve Mabona told DRUM a team had been sent to the school to resolve the matter. 

According to Zoe’s mother, she met with the school and the team sent by the GED and it was concluded that there was indeed no violation of the school’s code of conduct and Zoe will not be required to serve any punishment.