South African girls at Pretoria High School protest school policy forcing straightened hair

South African girls at Pretoria High School protest school policy forcing straightened hair

*Dozens of students protested outside of a prominent girls high school in South Africa on Monday, stating a hair policy at their school discriminates against black and Muslim students.

“Right now, learners at Pretoria High School are demanding that racist practices at the school are brought to an end,” read a petition sent to the province’s head of education and the school’s headmistress. “Girls attending the school have been forced to straighten their hair; are accused of conspiring when standing in groups and face other intolerable comments and actions.”

The students said they were told they’d be barred from taking their exams if they did not straighten their hair or wore dreadlocks.

In less than 24 hours, the petition has gathered more than 18,000 signatures calling on Panyaza Lesufi, the head of education for the Gauteng province in South Africa, and the school’s headmistress to take action so that its code of conduct “does not discriminate against black and Muslim girls.”

“I’m truly sorry and I can assure you that it ends here,” Lesufi said according to News24. “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.”

Although the school’s code of conduct handbook does not specifically require girls to straighten their hair (see below), students say they were told verbally that straightened hair was not allowed.

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Tiisetso Phelta, a former Pretoria High student, confirmed that officials would regularly tell girls their hair looked untidy and inappropriate and urged them to “flatten it somehow.”

“Why must you be apologetic for being a black African child in South Africa?” Phelta said. “Why do black girls always receive the shortest end of the stick?”

Watch below:

Below, more sights and sounds from today’s protest, via #StopRacismPretoriaGirlsHigh: