A heated debate is unfolding over a policy that requires black learners at a South African school to straighten their hair.
The policy has prompted students at the Pretoria High School for Girlsto stage protests against what they call racism against black learners.
According to the school’s 36-page Code of Conduct, pupils can wear braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, but only if they are a maximum of 10mm in diameter.
Under the code, all hair has to be brushed, neatly tied back if long enough, and kept out of the face, and no patterned cornrows are allowed. Moreover, longer braids have to be tied back. No decorations or beads are allowed in the hair.
On Monday, the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) condemned the racist policy passed by the management of the school.
“It should be noted that the ANCWL is appalled by their behaviour of the school management to allow young children to be manhandled by big security men for raising their concerns,” ANCWL Secretary General Meokgo Matuba said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.
The ANCWL expressed support for the young black girls at the school for standing firm in dealing with the racism they are experiencing.
“South Africans should not tolerate any form of racism and must work together to deal with structural racism in our previously white schools.
“It is the firm belief of the ANCWL that South Africa should start moving towards criminalizing all forms of racist behaviors. Any form of reversing the gains of our democracy must be unashamedly exposed and unapologetically confronted by all of us,” Matuba said.
The ANCWL said it supports the young fearless black learners who firmly stood up against racism when it reared its ugly head.
“We encourage all South Africans not to tolerate any form of racism and must work together to deal with structural racism in some of the Private schools around the country,” the organization said.
The Department of Education in Gauteng Province has set up a fact finding mission with a hope to restore the dignity of black girls.
The ANCWL said it will join other progressive structures to highlight the matter to Human Rights Commission.
Also on Monday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the latest revelations regarding “hair policy” have brought to attention some school policies which are both divisive and discriminatory.
“Policies that unfairly discriminate against people are unconstitutional and do not have a place in our democratic dispensation,” the DA said.
The school management, however, remains defiant, saying that any school has the right to make its code of conduct for students to follow.