Pupils at Sans Souci Girls' High School in Newlands protested against alleged discrimination and racism at the school last week. Picture: David Ritchie
Pupils at Sans Souci Girls' High School in Newlands protested against alleged discrimination and racism at the school last week. Picture: David Ritchie

#BlackHairMatters: MEC to receive pupils’ grievances

By Ilse Fredericks Time of article published Sep 5, 2016

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Cape Town - Education MEC Debbie Schäfer is expected to receive a memorandum of grievances from Sans Souci Girls’ High pupils on Monday and says she wants a new code of conduct for the school to be implemented by the end of the month.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) launched an investigation last week following allegations of racism and discrimination at the school.

A senior delegation from the WCED and Schäfer visited the school on Friday, where they spoke to pupils, former pupils and staff. In a statement on Saturday, she said many pupils feared being victimised following their actions last week and it was decided that the principal would not report to school on Monday.

Last week the Cape Argus reported that Sans Souci pupils were protesting against “institutional racism” at the Newlands school and said their grievances included not being allowed to speak isiXhosa on the school premises. A pupil showed the Cape Argus a yellow notebook of demerits she had received, including three hours’ detention “for speaking isiXhosa”.

Some pupils said teachers had assigned them English names instead of their isiXhosa names. A Grade 9 pupil said she had been forced to cut her hair and conform to the school’s hair policy.

“They used to call my plaits 'Mopani worms' and my afro a 'beehive'. I was given an option to relax my hair or just cut it. At this school you are made to feel bad because you are black.”

Schäfer said the pupils had asked her on Friday whether they could wear braids in their hair on Monday: “My response was that I see nothing wrong with braids as long as their hair is neat and tidy.”

She said she was also concerned that a complaint about the school to the department in 2011 had seemingly not been acknowledged and yielded no change.

On Thursday Schäfer said she had had a discussion with the chairman of the school’s governing body: “He has committed to convening an urgent school governing body meeting where they will do whatever is necessary to ensure that issues of concern are discussed and suitably addressed.”

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Cape Argus

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