Why SA is behind the Pretoria High School for Girls protest

Most South Africans have rallied behind girls from the Pretoria High School for Girls.

Parents and University students gathered outside Pretoria High School for Girls on 29 August. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale

JOHANNESBURG - Protests over the hair, as well as language policies and practices at Pretoria Girls' High School today sparked discussion around the experiences of black pupils who attend former 'Model C' schools.

This after girls attending school said they have been requested to straighten their hair. They've also reportedly been accused of conspiring when standing in groups and speaking in their mother tongue.

The school's policy states that hair must be tied in to a ponytail. Dreadlocks, cornrows and braids are allowed, provided that they are not longer than 10mm.

Sharing their own experiences of discriminatory rules, South Africans have rallied behind the girls under the hashtag 'Stop Racism at Pretoria Girls High'.

Explaining the politics of black hair, Zama Ndlovu, who is a Pretoria High School for Girls alumni and columnist, insists that the school's policies have been made to favour white people.

"The problem with the rules is that they are still written through a white gaze so our hair is supposed to conform to what our white counterparts' hair is supposed to look like. What is defined and conceived as neat is still the same as it was before, and we used to justify it by saying to ourselves this was very soon after 1994 and the spaces had not been used to having black students."

Ndlovu matriculated from the school nearly 15 years ago.

She adds, "It's been nearly 15 years since we matriculated and that same gaze is still there, that same attack on the black child's body is still there."

LISTEN: Columnist Zama Ndlovu weighs in on the hair controversy in Pretoria High School for Girls

While MEC Panyaza Lesufi has met with the school to address the matter, an online petition addressed to the MEC has already received over 14,00 signatures.

Screengrab of a petition addressed to Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.