High-School Girls in South Africa Are Protesting for the Right to Wear Their Natural Hair

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A student protests the hair policy at Pretoria Girls High.Photo: Courtesy of Twitter/lennoxbacela

A high school in Kentucky was recently forced to change its racist hair policy after complaints from parents and students, but a similar policy remains in place at Pretoria Girls High in South Africa. According to the BBC, girls at the school have taken it upon themselves to protest the policy, which implies that natural hair is “messy,” after the school reportedly used the policy to uphold one student’s suspension.

According to a Facebook post by one of the girl’s aunts, the student leading the protests gave a controversial speech in class, which led administrators to threaten her with suspension.

A petition calling for an end to the policy has garnered almost 18,000 signatures, and powerful photos of the protests were widely shared on social media over the weekend.

On Monday, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said via Twitter that he supports their right to wear natural hair at school. He added that it’s “unacceptable to ban students from speaking their African languages at school,” referring to complaints from students that they’d been warned not to do so.

Tiisetso Phetla, a former student at Pretoria High, told a local reporter about her experience at the school. “The system does not allow for black girls to have Afros,” she said. “It wasn’t written in the code of conduct, but they tell you that your hair is very untidy and it’s not appropriate with the school uniform — you must flatten it somehow, and you need to make yourself look presentable.”

She went on, “It’s understandable if your hair is really in your face, but if your Afro is neatly tied, why must you be apologetic for being a black African child in South Africa? Why do black girls always receive the shortest end of the stick?”