Gauteng provincial education authorities in South Africa have ruled that a clause dealing with hairstyles should be temporarily suspended at Pretoria Girls High pending a review of the school’s Code of Conduct.

The ruling follows protests by learners against racist rules, which inhibit black pupils from having hairstyles such as afros, bantu knots, dreadlocks and braids.

Panyaza Lesufi, the Education MEC for Gauteng visited the school and met with the School Management Team (SMT), a group of learners to hear their concerns, the School Governing Body (SGB), and parents respectively.

In a statement by the Gauteng Department of Education, various concerns were raised during the meetings, chief among them complains by leaners that the “Use of African languages on the school premises is not tolerated yet the other learners are allowed to express themselves in Afrikaans”. The learners also expressed that they feel they are not allowed to wear Black hairstyles, such as Afro, and voiced concern over racial abuse and victimisation by both white educators and white learners.

“The mocking of African learners’ usage of their mother tongue must stop. In fact, the diverse use of languages (especially African languages) must be encouraged for all learners at the school”.

A number of resolutions were made during the meeting, which include a directive for a formal investigation, which will be run by an independent body to investigate all the claims of racism, and victimisation. The investigation will be concluded within 21 days and the Department will take action following the recommendation of the investigation, the statement read.

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The proposed investigation has been welcomed by social media users, seen as the step in the right direction to confront the seemingly unrelenting scourge of racial discrimination.

Racial discrimination in South African educational institutions is a commonplace problem and there are numerous cases where learners and students have expressed traumatic experiences of an endemic culture of racism and violence.

Research on various educational institutions in South Africa has often argued that whiteness has continued to successfully contest ownership of institutional spaces and thereby visibly and invisibly perpetuating its hegemony. As a result, learners, students teachers and lecturers have no sense of belonging and they feel excluded on the grounds of language, cultures, race and class.