Port Elizabeth high school hit by protests over racism

Grade 12 pupils at Lawson Brown High School, in Millard Grange, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, who were apparently meant to sit for trial exams on Tuesday were allegedly told they would not be allowed to write if they had braids or afro hairstyles.

In protest, the students, joined by Economic Freedom Fighters supporters, then lay down in the street in front of the school before moving to the school hall. They demanded an apology from the school principal and teachers who made alleged racist comments about afros and braided hair.

One Grade 12 pupils, Sihle Zinganto, was in tears, saying she was told her hair was “disgusting and smelly”.

Principal, Donovan Cairncross addressed the assembly saying the school realised and acknowledged that things that had been said had hurt many children

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Cairncross said clauses about hair in the school code of conduct will be re-worked and apologised to the students.

The protests at the Port Elizabeth high school follow the outcry over racism at Pretoria High School for Girls.

Last week, a pupil at the Pretoria school presented an assignment highlighting inequality in South Africa.

The girl was allegedly taken to the principal’s office and reportedly threatened with suspension. By Saturday, during the spring fair, black pupils at the school marched, claiming they were fed-up with institutionalised racism and discrimination at the school.

On Monday anger vibrated across the country as footage of heavily armed security personnel patrolling the schoolyard appeared. They threatened to arrest the pupils.

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The pupils were protesting against the school’s hair policy and for being questioned whenever they were in groups of two or more. They also claim they were barred from using their home languages in private discussions.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi met pupils, management and the school governing body on Monday to resolve the problems. Lesufi said there would be a review of the code of conduct and setting aside of the regulation regarding black hair. The committee set up to look into the matter must report back within 21 days.

 

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