Black girls in tears at Pretoria school hair protest

Support grows in the crowd outside Pretoria Girls High. (Lerato Sejake, News24)
Support grows in the crowd outside Pretoria Girls High. (Lerato Sejake, News24)

Pretoria - Tears flowed as black Pretoria High School for Girls pupils on Monday told of alleged racism and abuse suffered at the hands of white teachers.

“I have a natural afro, but a teacher told me I need to comb my hair because it looks like a birds nest,” one girl told Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who visited the school on Monday morning.

At the centre of the protests is the section of the school's code of conduct relating to hairstyles, which black girls claim discriminates against them.

- Read more: Black schoolgirls forced to straighten hair

The girl told Lesufi she was given a brush and told to neaten her hair. She was told to look at herself in a mirror.

More than five girls expressed their dissatisfaction with the treatment received over their hair.

Another pupil told Lesufi she was told not to use her mother tongue with her friends.

“Teachers find it disturbing when you speak to your friend in vernacular.  They say stop making funny noises or you will have to sit in my office,” she said.

The pupil said the same teacher had a discussion in class. Girls were asked to discuss what came to mind when speaking about blackness.

“Coincidentally, only white learners were participating in the conversation. She said things like, when you think of the word black, you associate it with evil, dark, and bad things,” she said.

- Read more: These are the 4 hairstyles that are banned at Pretoria High School for Girls

Some of the pupils broke down as they addressed Lesufi. The MEC and his officials gasped and shook their heads when they heard from the girls. A parent who was present cried.

“I'm truly sorry and I can assure you that it ends here. You have my support and I will protect you. Your pain will never again continue for as long as I'm still the MEC in this province,” Lesufi said.

“It ends here. If there is someone who needs to pack their bags and leave this school, then they will,” he said.

The school has not yet commented.

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