Dozens of schoolgirls gathered outside of Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa Friday to protest an ongoing dispute about racist hair policies and reports of students forced to relax their hair. Black students have also reported teachers and administrators denouncing their afros, referring to them as “untidy” or “unkempt”.

The school’s policy calls for “neat” and forbids “eccentric” hairstyles.


Students also say they’re banned from speaking their native languages.

A petition to end the school’s practices singling out black and Muslim students has reached nearly 6,000 signatures.

The Stop Racism at Pretoria Girls High petition reads:

Right now, learners at Pretoria High school are demanding that racist practices at the school are brought to an end. Girls attending the school have been forced to straighten their hair; are accused of conspiring when standing in groups and face other intolerable comments and actions.

We stand in solidarity with the learners, who marched at the school on the 26th to say enough is enough. It is unacceptable that in a country in which Black people are a demographic majority, we still today continue to be expected to pander to whiteness and to have it enforced through school policy.

Panyaza Lesufi, is the MEC for Education in the Gauteng Province and says he is aware of the petition. He wrote on Twitter, “Leave everything with my team. This will end.”

Lesufi visited the school Monday, greeted by students and parents.

Images of the girls and their bravery circulated on Twitter.

Their classmates even supported the protest.

Police were dispatched to the scene, although a large majority of demonstrators were minors.

On Friday, a teacher was filmed as she tried to snatch a phone from a student.

The conversation grew on Twitter as black women worldwide shared similar experiences and supported the girls’ movement.

Black children are constantly plagued by similar issues involving their hair here in the states. In 2009, a teacher punished a black student by cutting off a braid from the girl’s head as the class watched. A few years later, an Orlando girl was told by administrators that her hair caused a distraction which is against school policy and grounds for expulsion. More recently, a group of high school students in the Bahamas say they were threatened with a suspension over their natural hair.

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