A section of Black Pretoria High School girls in South Africa caused a storm in their school yesterday as they protested alleged racism and abuse by white teachers, according to News24.
The students were protesting against a code of conduct introduced by their school management proscribing Afro hairstyles, which the black girls say discriminates against them.
“I have a natural Afro, but a teacher told me I need to comb my hair because it looks like a bird’s nest,” one girl said, narrating her ordeal to Gauteng’s Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who paid them a visit yesterday morning.
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A few hours after the Pretoria High School girls voiced their displeasure with the school’s code of conduct, South Africa’s Minister for Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa took to Twitter to condemn the alleged discrimination saying it’s unacceptable, according to the BBC.
“Schools should not be used as a platform to discourage students from embracing their African identity,” the Minister tweeted.
The minister is also reported to have criticized the school’s alleged ban on speaking local languages, saying “it is unacceptable to ban students from speaking their African languages at school.”
Some girls claimed white teachers in the school find it rude when a black girl speaks to another in vernacular.
“They say stop making funny noises or you will have to sit in my office,” another girl narrated.
In another instance, the student said the teacher initiated a debate about blackness, and coincidentally, only white students were participating in the discussion, according to News24.
“She said things like, when you think of the word black you associate it with evil, dark and bad things,” the girl painfully recalled.
Dismayed by the revelations, the MEC promised the Pretoria High School girls that he and his officials will do everything possible to get to the bottom of the issue.
“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,” Mr. Lesufi said.
Pretoria High School for Girls
Pretoria High School for Girls was established in 1901 by Colonial Secretary Lord Milner. Initially, it was a boys’ school with Charles Paul as the headmaster, but it later evolved into a girls’ school with only four teachers and 126 girls.
It is now the sister school of Pretoria High School for Boys, and it admits students of all races. It was also voted by Pretoria News as the best high school in Pretoria.