Durban - Black pupils at Queensburgh Girls’ High in Durban claim they, like their counterparts in Pretoria, have been the victims of racism.
The KwaZulu-Natal education department on Thursday sent officials to investigate allegations that black pupils were treated differently to girls of other races, were not permitted to play indigenous games, and told to cut hair they were told “looked messy”, spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said.
According to the school’s dress code, hair must be clean and kept neatly away from the face and eyes. Hair that touches the collar must be tied up. It may not be bleached or dyed.
“No extreme hair styles are allowed. Hair extensions, wigs, bonding and hair pieces are not allowed. Natural hair may be braided but may not be worn below the collar.”
In a letter to the school’s management, the girls said they wanted to break the boundaries between how different races were treated.
“We would also like to be equal and for our objections and grievances to be brought to light and heard.”
The school’s management allegedly turned down the girls’ request for a meeting.
The principal was not immediately available to comment to News24 and was believed to be in a meeting.
News24 was invited to join a WhatsApp group on Wednesday night called #UpLiftBlackConciousness, in which about 36 Grade 9 and 11 girls revealed how they had allegedly been ill-treated at the school.
One pupil said her English teacher victimised her for having dreadlocks, despite the code of conduct making no mention of dreadlocks.
“It got to a point where I undid my hair and came with my afro the next day; the teacher laughed in my face and told me to tie it up or flatten it.”
The pupil said the teacher allegedly made racist remarks during lessons.
“She would say things like, ‘ukuLobola is so dumb’ and that she cannot believe that our parents were still stuck in the old way of thinking. She wants us to think like her, she is always putting us down,” she said.
Another pupil said she was taken to the principal's office because one teacher told her her hair was fake.
“She said there's no way a black person could have such nice hair. The principal shouted at me and she told me to open up my hair and when she saw that it was my hair, she didn't even apologise for accusing me of such thing.”
Home language ban
Another girl said black pupils were not allowed to speak their home language during school hours, were not allowed to play indigenous games and that black families were seen as financially unstable.
Another pupil said: “We have a Europe trip going on at school for particular students, but the teacher told us straight up that black people will not be considered because black people just want to take and take and never want to give.”
A mixed-race pupil said: “When I speak English nobody says anything, yet when I speak isiZulu on the field or on the school premises well that's considered as a ‘foreign language’.”
Another pupil referred to a cartoon included in a Grade 11 English exam they wrote in June.
“The cartoon had a girl with dreadlocks and a question was asked ‘What is amusing about this picture?’ The final answer was that the girl with dreadlocks looks like a mad animal... and that girl was black if am not mistaken on the question paper.”
Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited Pretoria High School for Girls on Monday after some expressed unhappiness about how they were told to wear their hair, and said they had experienced racism. He suspended the school’s code of conduct on hair, and ordered an investigation.