The damaging and abhorrent abuse of power the teachers at Pretoria School for Girls in South Africa have imposed over the black female students at this institution portrays how much further as a society we need to progress.
According to News24, the pupils who attend Pretoria High School for Girls say that the school has placed a ban upon African-Caribbean hairstyles; specifically forbidding afros, bantu knots, dreadlocks and braids. Unfortunately, this racist act echoes volumes of the lived experience many black man and women live through on a daily basis. In a work environment, in particular, there have been a number of instances where hairstyles that are traditionally part of the black culture have been prohibited as those in charge deemed them “unprofessional”. This thus makes the assumption that to look more professional one must adopt a more Caucasian atheistic, reinforcing harmful racist attitudes.
Zama Ndlovu, a current Pretoria School alumni states: “The problem with the rules is that they are still written through a white gaze so our hair is supposed to conform to what our white counterparts’ hair is supposed to look like. What is defined and conceived as neat is still the same as it was before, and we used to justify it by saying to ourselves this was very soon after 1994 and the spaces had not been used to having black students. It’s been nearly 15 years since we matriculated and that same gaze is still there, that same attack on the black child’s body is still there.”
Protests have taken place to oppose the racist restrictions placed on the black students at Pretoria High School. However, without a proper review and eradication of the systems legitimating racism within schools, sustainable change will be harder to achieve.