Hair protest at school ‘leads to victimisation’

Pretoria Girls High School pupils during protest against alleged racism and intimidation. Picture: Alon Skuy/Gallo
Pretoria Girls High School pupils during protest against alleged racism and intimidation. Picture: Alon Skuy/Gallo

Pretoria - It was not business as usual at the Pretoria High School for Girls this week after pupils protested against discrimination, the school’s ban on Afros and speaking home languages the week before.

On Monday, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi issued instructions for classes to resume, and for the school governing body to issue an apology to parents and children for the heavy-handed manner in which the protest had been dealt with. He also instructed that no girls who had protested should be victimised.

But on Tuesday, more than 10 black pupils at the school, who had taken part in the protest, told City Press that some of them had subsequently been abused by classmates on social media and that their classes were near empty.

“Some of the white girls in the hostel were told to leave because ... it’s not safe for them to be there,” said one protesting student.

A parent of one of the protesters, who asked only to be identified as Busi to protect her child, said she was outside when a teacher from the school’s North Lodge hostel ushered a few white girls, who were outside, into the building.

“I asked her why only white parents were taking their children away and she said because those parents were afraid. I asked: ‘Who are they afraid of? These kids play together!’”Her daughter, she said, had been branded a “troublemaker” by staff.

The school did not respond to requests for comment.

The protesting schoolgirls, who now refer to themselves as the Black Magic Movement, told City Press that they decided to protest last Friday by wearing black clothing and doeks, because they had exhausted all channels and had been “consistently shut down and ignored”.

“The day of peaceful demonstration was responded to by us being pulled out of assembly; us being told not to congregate in groups, as we were supposedly ‘conspiring’. This insinuates that we were being malicious and potentially inciting violence, so much so that the school saw it necessary to have armed private security guards, with dogs, brought to school,” they wrote in a statement.

Busi, however, said she was yet to receive an apology, and was worried about her child being victimised at school. She also didn’t trust school management or the school’s governing body, which had called in the security guards. “In a video, the head of the governing body is telling kids they will be arrested,” she said.

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