The victimisation that Pretoria High School for Girls pupils face can be likened to that arising from the recent ‘burkini’ ban in France, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s youth co-ordinator said on Tuesday.
“What this has in common with the highly discriminatory French law, is that it enforces assimilation based on values that are often Eurocentric or white, deeming all other values or cultures as less worthy,” said Busisiwe Nkosi.
She questioned whether South Africa could claim to be truly democratic when the right to wear an African hairstyle or doek was not ensured.
The foundation visited the school on Monday and spoke to relatives and pupils, both current and former.
“We were told of a play that involved blackface that was called off at the last minute, of a fellow pupil using the k-word to describe an African song, and as has been reported in the media, of African girls being ‘harassed’ for their natural hair.”
Code of conduct review
She said efforts to tackle institutionalised racism had to be stepped up.
Foundation director Neeshan Balton noted that it was the actions of protesting pupils, together with parents, caregivers and supporting University of Pretoria students that was most inspiring.
The foundation welcomed the intervention by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi to review the school’s code of conduct, along with other schools in the province.
It also welcomed the investigation into allegations of racism and a planned visit by the province’s Group of Eminent Persons dealing with social cohesion issues.
“It’s about time that racism in the education sector is tackled head on,” Balton said.
“It is hoped that lessons can be drawn from this incident, so that all schools, as we stated before, can become laboratories of non-racialism.”
Reporting by Jenna Etheridge