[Update] Pretoria High School for Girls Twitter debate escalates

petition pretoria high school for girls august 2016

Update #4, 30 August, 10.55am: After the trending hashtags, the media coverage and social commentary, the Pretoria High School for Girls petition has garnered over 24 000 signatures.

The school’s governing body also issued a statement after meeting with Gauteng MEC of education, Panyaza Lesufi.

“The School Governing Body has held a successful meeting with the MEC for Education in Gauteng, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, with regard to recent events,” the statement reads.

“He has called for calm and the resumption of normal teaching and learning at the school.”

“The School Governing Body will be working closely with the Gauteng Department of Education in the coming weeks to resolve the issues which were raised,” it concludes.

Lesufi has also suspended the school’s code of conduct regarding hairstyles, he announced on Twitter.

“The element of the code of conduct that deals specifically with hairstyles will be suspended immediately,” he confirmed with Times Media.

“None of the learners who reported the prevalence of racial or emotional abuse at this school will be intimidated or be charged,” he adds.

Lawson Brown High School: the latest conversation starter

In light of Khaya Dlanga’s tweet last night, and the subsequent statement by Lawson Brown High School’s principal, Donovan Caincross, #LawsonBrownHighSchool started trending on Twitter in South Africa’s major cities late Tuesday morning.

Videos of students demanding an apology from the school’s principal also set the social platform alight.

Update #3, 29 August, 6.29pm: The petition that started the Pretoria High School for Girls debate has now garnered over 19 000 signatures.

Additionally, it seems that the incident at Pretoria High School for Girls isn’t isolated at all. News emerged late Monday of another high school in Port Elizabeth that’s also enforcing rules on “girls with afros”.

The tweet, uncovered by author Khaya Dlanga, was posted two days ago by a Lawson Brown High School student.

Soon after Dlanga tweeted the post, #LawsonBrownHighSchool began trending in South African cities. #PretoriaGirlsHigh is another common hashtag making the rounds in South Africa at the time of writing.

Update #2, 29 August, 4.17pm: Radio 702 presenter John Robbie came under fire on Twitter for comments made towards the Pretoria High School for Girls racism debate.

In a radio interview with The Daily Vox’s Mishka Wazar, Robbie suggested that school pupils should abide by rules, and that the school cannot be judged as being racist based on that alone.

Twitter didn’t take kindly to the comments, with the likes of former 5FM presenter Anele Mdoda and comedian Siv Ngesi calling out Robbie on the network.

Draw your own conclusions by listening to the interview snippet below.

Update #1, 29 August, 2.12pm: New information surfaced Monday afternoon from a pupil’s guardian at Pretoria High School for Girls.

Lebo Madiba Lokotwayo, first spotted by Times Media, took to Facebook to voice the sequence of events leading up to the petition and social media outcry:

“I’m a parent at Pretoria High School for Girls and I say #NotInOurName,” she begins.

The issue at Pretoria High School for Girls is not just about hair. It is just plain racism.

The girl with the uncontrollable hair gave a speech in class about employment in South Africa. She gave a comparison of the politics of employment pre- and post-apartheid‚ she highlighted the ills of apartheid and the role of trade unions.

Her speech was interrupted; she was taken to the headmaster’s office and was threatened with suspension.

When her parents fought the suspension‚ they used the school’s hair regulations against her. Her hair is uncontrollable! Her mother is black (Zulu) and her father is Indian. Doesn’t that just make her proudly South African? She represents everything that is beautiful about this country.

Her post has been shared over 1100 times on Facebook at the time of writing.

The EFF weighs in

South Africa’s third most popular political party, the EFF, has also released a statement written by party spokesperson Fana Mokoena.

A petition to investigate claims of racism and discrimination at Pretoria High School for Girls has accrued over 24 000 signatures

The party “applauds the young black women who protested against their school for their racist practices,” Mokoena explains.

“The girls are not allowed to wear their hair naturally‚ in fact they are forced to straighten it; and their indigenous languages are suppressed.”

Original article: Pretoria High School for Girls’ staff are facing a slew of social media backlash this morning, after news emerged that black students were instructed to straighten their hair.

After news broke late Sunday, a petition set up on Amandla Awethu quickly gained traction, asking Gauteng MEC of education Panyaza Lesufi to investigate the school’s senior management and policies. The petition — which is addressed to Lesufi, and Pretoria High’s headmistress Mrs K du Toit — questions the school’s code of conduct, and staff policies against discrimination.

We the undersigned call on you to take swift action to ensure that:

– The school’s code of conduct does not discriminate against Black and Muslim girls;

– Disciplinary action against teachers and other staff members implementing any racist policy and/or racist actions

– Protection for the learners who protested to ensure they will not be victimised.

The petition also revealed the current sentiment of students within the school.

“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 action,” the petition reads.

‘Learners at Pretoria High school are demanding that racist practices at the school are brought to an end’

At the time of writing, the petition garnered over 11 000 signatures of its 15 000 goal.

Google Search traffic also saw marked search spikes for “Pretoria” and “Pretoria High School for Girls” within the past day.


Twitter joins in support of Pretoria High students

The petition and resultant search traffic weren’t the only things spiking in South Africa’s digital spheres though.

Twitter users, armed with the hashtag began discussing the incident late Sunday. The hashtag began trending on Twitter in many of South Africa’s major cities Monday morning.

Late last night, Lesufi was asked to address concerned Twitter users. He noted that the investigation was set in motion, largely thanks to the petition:

That wasn’t the end of it though.

Twitter users, who weren’t engaged in the conversation the night before, posted selfies in protest, while others aired their views towards racism in South African schools:

A dedicated account, @StopRacismPHSG was also set up after the news broke. Images of protests from the school’s students quickly infiltrated Twitter timelines across the nation:

Instagram shares its story

Instagram also saw footage of the protest on its platform:

the protest for her crown. | #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh – this is so personal and dear to my heart because I’m an old girl of PHSG. And it saddens me that these young & beautiful black girls have consequently had to take time from a normal and enjoyable school day to spearhead change in this institute. These young girls have to protest their right to wear their NATURAL hair to school all because they’re told it is not fitting for a school setting.. Where are the real teachers?? Where are the teachers that want to urge black girls to be educated instead of having an education system that works against them? What we have here, are teachers who are just marshals in a conveyor belt of a racist production line. White systems have given themselves the grounds to police and speak on black hair and to this day I’ll never understand why – they are not fit to. But I stand in firm solidarity with these ladies. ✊🏾

A photo posted by Lerato. (@lerato_kgamanyane) on

Currently, the hashtag continues to trend on South Africa’s Twitter domain Monday. You can follow a rolling list of updates below:


 

Developing…

Andy Walker
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