How black pupils are allowed – or not allowed – to wear their hair at former Model C schools was thrust into the spotlight by protests at Pretoria High School for Girls, and more recently, Sans Souci Girls’ School in Newlands, where girls also claimed they were being fined for speaking Xhosa on school premises.
People across the country have lambasted schools which enforce policies which do not allow girls to have afros or wear their hair natural. Some even went as far as labelling the schools and their policies as racist, stressing that these policies need to be overhauled.
In a bid to find out what rules township schools have in place, Vukani visited two Khayelitsha schools, Joe Slovo and Sizimisele Technical High School, where the issue of hair had been a concern in the past.
At Joe Slovo, a Rastafarian pupil was prohibited from attending lessons because of his deadlocks, while at Sizimisele a group of girls were locked outside the school premises for having weaves and braids.
Principal of Joe Slovo High School, Majiet Parker, told Vukani that their school code of conduct allowed girls to have afros or long natural hair as long as it is “neat and tidy”. He explained that the code strictly prohibited girls from having weaves or braids.
Commenting on dreadlocks, Mr Parker said at the time staff had not known the pupil wore dreadlocks for religious reasons.
“After numerous consultations with the staff and parents, they opted to amend the code of conduct and allow boys to have dreadlocks on the basis that they belong to a certain religion. But they need to declare their religion when they are signing the application form,” he said.
Mr Parker said they only allow Grade 12 pupils to have weaves and braids when attending their farewell functions, which usually takes place in the third quarter of the year.
When the girls return to school for the last quarter, they are allowed to retain these hairstyles as they then only have a few weeks before they write their final exams and leave school.
“We don’t allow girls who did not go to the farewell function to have weaves or braids,” he added.
Khayelitsha Education Forum secretary (KEF), Haido Mthetho, said each and every school has its own code of conduct but emphasised that it should not be discriminatory and must be in line with the South African Constitution.
He urged schools to thoroughly consult parents and pupils when drafting a school code of conduct and to take into consideration the fact that there were some religions which dictated that its followers grow their hair.
“We need to a have dialogue with all school principals to discuss this matter and involve parents. As KEF, we urge pupils to tidy their hair and not to wear braids and weaves to school as that is against the school code of conduct,” he said.
Grade 12 pupil at Sizimisele Technical High School, Zimkhitha Zazini said the school forbids them from wearing weaves or braids to school. These hairstyles, however, are allowed at their matric farewell function.
“We have never had an issue when it comes to natural hair. But the fact that we are not allowed to have braids in school, I think the teachers are just jealous,” she said.
The school’s principal, Dominic Moruping, confirmed that their code of conduct prohibited girls from having weaves. But, as is the case at Joe Slovo High, pupils who wear weaves or braids to their matric farewell, which is held before the September exam, are not required to remove them when they return to school.
He added that the school planned to revisit the school code of conduct and see where they perhaps need to make amendments.
“I have raised this issue of hair with the school teachers. This week we will have a staff meeting to peruse the current code of conduct. Once we have our own meeting we will then have a meeting with the school governing body (SGB),” he said.