Tempers flared at Kwamfundo Senior Secondary School, in Harare, on Thursday September 15, when disgruntled pupils burnt rubbish and barricaded roads with stones, demanding the school allow school girls to wear weaves and braids.
During the pupils’ rampage, a security guard’s bungalow was damaged and the school security cameras stolen.
When Vukani arrived at the school around noon, the situation was still tense. There was a heavy police presence protecting the school and the teachers, who were later forced to leave the premises.
Attempts by Vukani to talk to pupils or take pictures proved futile as our reporter was pelted with stones. Vukani understands that the following day pupils gathered at the staff room and threatened to shut down the school if their demands were not met by the school management.
Andries Bonile, treasurer of the school governing body (SGB), said they had been called to intervene as the pupils threatened to damage the school.
“We tried to calm down the pupils but they were angry and they were becoming more violent. Our fear is that the Grade 12 people are writing their trial (exam) and do not need any disturbance. I don’t know what more do these pupils want because the school allows them the liberty to have a straight back,” he said.
A “straight back” hairstyle is similar to cornrows.
With just a couple of weeks to go before the Grade 12s write their final exams, he said, they were appealing to the pupils to focus on their studies and not to fight for things that will not help them improve their education. He accused the pupils of taking the hair issue out of context.
He said the girls who initially brought up the issue were not fighting to have braids or weaves in their schools, but they were merely fighting to keep their natural hair and against the racism that plagued them at the school.
A Grade 9 pupil, who refused to tell Vukani her name, said they did not understand why the school did not allow them to have weaves or braids. She said they felt the school policy that did not allow them to have these hairstyles was outdated and she accused the teachers of being jealous of their “beautiful hairstyles”.
“Hairstyles don’t make the school uniform untidy but they beautify us, and we don’t make strange hairstyles. We will continue to fight for this until our demands are met. What we want is simple,” she said.
Vukani phoned the school principal on his cellphone number and on the school number on numerous occasions but was unable to reach him for comment.