Cape Town - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said her department had no plans to develop policy to accommodate religious identities of pupils.
“There is sufficient education policy framework to guide such matters. The challenge emanates from School Codes of Conduct that tend to require children to dress their hair in a particular fashion,” Motshekga said.
She was responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Paulnita Marais after she wrote to her asking whether her department intended to establish a national policy on hair and appearance of learners at all schools to ensure their dignity and religious beliefs.
Marais posed her question after certain schools’ management and teaching staff were cutting the natural Afro hair of black children.
One of the affected schools was the Endlozana Primary School in Nongoma.
Motshekga said her department was working with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Equal Education Law Centre and the Centre for Child Law to develop a human rights-compliant exemplar code of conduct for schools in order to assist schools avoid human rights violations.
Asked what steps will be taken against the principals and implicated teachers of such schools in the interim, the minister referred the matter to the provinces.
“Provincial Education Departments will be in a position to support principals and teachers regarding prevention and management of discrimination, prejudice and related intolerance in school management,” Motshekga said.
Last year, the SAHRC was forced to intervene after concerns were raised about schools forcing pupils belonging to the Nazareth Baptist Church, better known as the Shembe Church, to cut their hair.
This was after Esizibeni Sivananda Vaswani Comprehensive High School in eManzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal gave pupils an ultimatum to cut their hair.
In 2019, a Cape Town school was reviewing its hair policy following protests by pupils who claimed the rules at the time were racist.
The Western Cape Department of Education had requested Malibu High School in Blue Downs review its code of conduct after pupils went on the rampage after they were ordered to plait their hair or face suspension for violating the school's hair policy.