Students at the private Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa have accused their school of discriminating against natural African hair.
Students say they’ve been told to straighten their hair and have been banned from wearing ‘Afro’ hairstyles.
Apart from the obvious - keeping hair tied back, off the face, and no hair dying - there are a few interesting rules listed in the school’s Code of Conduct.
No “relaxing of hair causing a change in colour or shaving of hair in any way is allowed”. The school permits students to relax their hair, a chemical process which changes natural hair to a more malleable hair type. But shaving hair short, which is a popular hairstyle among young Afro-haired girls, is not allowed.
The school, however, allows students to wear “cornrows” and “natural dreadlocks” provided “they are a maximum of 10mm in diameter”.
The minister for Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, has thrown his support behind the students of Pretoria by tweeting, “Schools should not be used as a platform to discourage students from embracing their African identity.”
The protest has been demonstrated through rallies being held outside the school. A petition is also underway and has already gathered over 22,500 signatures in less than 24 hours.
In addition, students have garnered support from the general public with messages of solidarity, and footage of protester speaking on local news channels being shared over social media under the hashtag #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh.
In addition to hair discrimination, students have also complained about not being allowed to speak native African languages whilst at school.
According to their website, Pretoria is “an educational institution based on inclusiveness and diversity”.
The school was established in 1902 as a multi-ethnic school, but only admitted white students during the apartheid years.
The school has yet to comment on their students’ allegations. SBS has reached out to Pretoria High School for Girls for comment.
UPDATE: Pretoria High School for Girls have suspended student dress code rules while an independent investigation is conducted into the allegations.