Natalie Cavernelis’ little daughter has a head of exquisite curly hair. So when she heard about the Pretoria Girls High debacle, she saw red. She shared her thoughts with YOU.
“The hair row at Pretoria Girls’ High touched a nerve for me, as it did many other people.
Reading the tweets and stories about how the school had problems with black girls having their hair natural and big and girls relating stories about being told to relax their hair was outrageous, especially 22 years after the first democratic elections.
I have a four year old with a mass of curls and they’re gorgeous.
So it pained me when she was about three years old and asked when her hair would grow like Elsa’s from Frozen. She spent a few weeks wandering around pretending to flick her “long hair” over her shoulders.
I had to explain that her hair was similar to mine and it grows up and curly and not down and straight. I had spent my teen years and 20s relaxing my hair and wearing it straight until it fought back and broke off.
Ever since then I have embraced my natural curly hair and I want my daughter to not see her hair as something that she has to change. My husband and I searched for books, TV series, movies with main characters that were little girls with curls or afros to make sure she sees herself in stories.
And it worked! She loved Tip from the animated movie Home where the character looks like Rihanna with a mass of curls and immediately saw herself. This was the hair issue I thought I would have to deal with until she was a teenager and would want to shock her parents with some outrageous hairdo we would pretend to hate.
I read more and more tweets of people saying Pretoria Girls’ High was not alone and other schools had similar issues with afros and natural black hair — so many kids having to deal with their schools telling them their natural hair is unacceptable, that how they look is “unacceptable”.
Checking the specific hair rules at Pretoria Girls and I was again left seething trying to work out how these rules would be possible with my daughter’s hair.
“If the hair is long enough to be tied back, it must be tied back in a neat ponytail, no lower than the nape of the neck … Ponytails may not be visible from the front. Hair buns must be tight with no loose hair and have to be worn in the neck and not on top of the head.”
Okay… these rules would not easy with my daughter’s hair, curly hair is never the same length all the way around because of the way it grows.
It would be a massive struggle every morning to try to adhere to these rules. I understand that the rules are for all the girls at the school but when you think about it, the rules only really work for straight hair. My daughter would have to wear so many hairclips to keep her hair in place I might as well invest in a hair accessory company.
So a search for my daughter’s future school is not only about the ethics of the school, the education they offer, the extramural activities, the aftercare programme, but now I also have to read the rules on hair to make sure it will not break down her self-confidence as she tries to fight her hair into a ponytail that is at the right height and not one unruly curl has escaped?
Luckily my daughter’s pre-school loves her hair in its curly afro and it’s lovely to see the range of hairstyles she and her friends all have because it makes them feel good. Surely that’s what we want?
I would want her future school to see her worth and if they do not like the way her hair looks, how can I trust them to educate her?”