National 29.8.2016 12:38 pm

Pretoria High: Teachers called us ‘monkeys, dirty k****rs’

Picture: Twitter

Picture: Twitter

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has been hearing alarming allegations of racism directed at black pupils at Pretoria Girls High.

South Africa woke to yet another protest against alleged racism at Pretoria Girls’ High School. A young girl making a sign using cross fists at a teacher went viral on social media and education MEC Panyaza Lesufi promised to investigate.

Black learners at the school claimed they were told to straighten their “untidy” natural hair and stop speaking anything but English. They went on a protest on Sunday, with security personnel threatening to arrest them.

Lesufi announced on Sunday he would be visiting Pretoria Girls’ on Monday morning to address allegations of racism. The Citizen’s reporter, Virginia Keppler, has been with the MEC at the school and listened to the grievances of a number of pupils.

Early on Thursday afternoon, Tshwane’s new executive mayor, Solly Msimanga, also made an appearance at the school.

What the girls allege is disturbing, with the number and variety of complaints coming thick and fast.

Among the allegations raised by the girls are:

  • A pupil telling Lesufi that a teacher said her hair looks like a bird’s nest and that she looked like a sheep.
  • Another pupil alleges a teacher called her and her friends monkeys in front of the class.
  • One girl alleged being called a “dirty kaffir”.
  • She alleged being compared to the Bart Simpson TV cartoon character.
  • Another girl claims they forced her to undo her “Bantu knots” and get thinner dreadlocks.
  • When they went camping, another girl says an instructor told them he was “not interested in black chicks”. When they complained to a teacher at the camp, allegedly nothing was done.
  • An instructor allegedly threatened the pupils by saying “he would make them bleed” and was not afraid of their parents.
  • Some girls were allegedly told they “belonged” in schools in Mamelodi.
  • When a group of white girls told one black pupil her English was broken and bad, the teacher allegedly laughed.
  • They heard a comment from a teacher saying that “black girls worry too much about politics and that’s why they have no black achievers in education.
  • Black girls have been told they “focus too much on race”.
  • A teacher apparently tried to justify dividing black girls up into their ethnic groups, but not the white girls, saying it was a “geography exercise”.
  • When the girls decided to wear black hoodies to school, management of the school allegedly called in extra security.
  • They allege being physically manhandled.
  • They say guns were used by security.
  • One girl says she was victimised for wearing a badge saying, “Hi, don’t be racist”.
  • Apparently there was a case of “blackface”, where white girls painted their faces black.

In response to the above, Lesufi assured the pupils that he was there to protect the girls. “Your pain will never again continue,” he said.

There was a lot of crying from many of the girls. One explained that her mother had forced her to cut her hair and said she “didn’t want trouble” at the school.

He added that if some of the teachers needed to “pack their bags and leave”, then that would have to happen and he was even willing to look at the need to change school laws, if required. He said he would not allow girls to be judged on the colour of their skin.

The girls named a number of teachers as the culprits, but not all of them were present in the room. A black parent speaking after the girls said she was proud of the girls and that they were speaking on behalf of all other pupils in these “types” of schools. The mother said that “money is not black or white”, in reference to the fact that she paid school fees like anyone else, but that her trust in white people was broken.

“I can’t chance white people’s hearts.”

According to the petition, which garnered 4 201 signatures by early Monday morning, the school was originally being accused of forcing black girls to straighten their natural hair and “conspiring” when standing in groups. The latter charge appeared to be related to the fact that only English is allowed to be spoken.

They girls are demanding an acknowledgment of the racism at the school and an apology. They also want the school’s “hair rules” amended.

The school claims many of these issues were not brought to its attention.

Note: This is a developing story. Updates to follow.



today in print