Cape Town - Pupils at Sans Souci Girls' High School have handed over a memorandum to the Education MEC Debbie Schäfer calling for the dismissal of both the school principal and the all-male governing body.
More than 300 people, including parents, pupils and members of the Western Cape Education Department packed the school hall on Monday night at a gathering which got rowdy and emotional at times.
One of the pupils read out the memorandum which stated: “We, the students, parents and alumni of Sans Souci Girls’ High School demand the immediate dismissal of Charmaine Murray without pay or benefits as principal and demand the Western Cape Education Department immediately institute a full and comprehensive investigation into her conduct and school practices during her tenure as principal at the school.”
They also demanded an end to the hair rules imposed on students and a review of the school’s code of conduct which is said to be inherently racist, defining cleanliness and professionalism along stereotypically white standards.
The girls demanded to be allowed to take same-sex partners to events at the school. They also want the name of the school to be changed to Sans Souci Leadership for Girls because they say the school breeds future leaders and should empower women.
Only five governing body members were present at the meeting, all black or coloured men, and none responded to any of the demands.
Schäfer received the list of demands and said they would be investigated. “Unfortunately we can’t just hire and fire people as we please.”
She said the student governing body was planning on reviewing the code of conduct as soon as possible and asked for patience and time from parents and pupils.
“Give us time to fully investigate these demands and we promise we will get back to you.”
After speaking to the crowd, Schäfer left with some members of the governing body.
Grecian Chetty, from Access to Justice, was called on by the students to mediate and find a resolution between students and teachers. Former pupils and parents said they were adamant about having black women on the governing body because it is a girls' school.
At the end of the evening no time frame had been set for the response to the demands.
The allegations of racism which emerged last week included pupils being forced to cut and straighten their hair and being punished for speaking their mother tongues.
Pupils at Sans Souci told reporters that their counterparts at Pretoria High School for Girls, who had protested against the fact that black girls were not allowed to wear their hair naturally, had given them the courage to also stand up for their rights.
A Grade 11 pupil at Sans Souci said she had been forced to cut and straighten her hair. “I was told my natural hairstyle was exotic and my Afro was dirty,” she said. “I had to cut it and burn my scalp just to get it straight and fit the perfect image of a proper Sans Souci girl.”
At Sans Souci, the code of conduct - which the school says it is rewriting - states braid thickness may not exceed 5mm. “Exotic hairstyles” are banned, while “hair may not be combed out to create Afros or be teased to create a beehive”.