Columns 30.8.2016 02:06 pm

I like your hair, but not in my school

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi.

Thamsanqa Mkwanazi.

The other day while sauntering past the mirror, I noticed something rather unsettling on my head.

I was born with a full head of relatively loose curls and while growing up, people often asked if I had coloured blood in me. Back in the day, being asked a question like that was a flattering compliment. I even had so much hair on my head I had dreadlocks for my Matric dance. The years have gone by and I find myself as a 33-year-old has-been who once used Black Like Me.

With that said, hours of National Geographics have taught me that I used to have Pangea on my head, but now I am hosting the continents. Let me break it down for you.

You see, Pangaea refers to a so-called supercontinent on Earth, where it was one big mass, and that is why, today, the map of the world looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle. This large mass then broke up over time, and we ended up with the different continents as we now know them.

The very same phenomenon has happened on my head. I have gone from one fertile mass to various continents, all spread out in different regions. And the more interesting part is that while I have lost hair on my head, someone threw fertiliser on my chest, back … and you know where …

But just because I’m a balding middle-aged man does not mean I am not passionate about hair. I used to love those taxi stickers in the 90s that said: “I love your perm, but not on my windows.”

The governing body at the Pretoria High School for Girls saw it fit to enforce a draconian – sorry, I use big words when mad – clause about the appearance of a learner. Black girls were told that they had to straighten their hair, as it was “untidy” in its natural state. So hairstyles such as afros, dreadlocks, Bra Hugh’s favourite (braids) and a whole lot more are forbidden.

Thank goodness we live in a country where such discrimination is no longer tolerated, even by the young. I am proud to hear of teenagers standing up for their rights and standing up for what they believe in.

What does a hairstyle have to do with a learner’s education? Is a learner with straightened hair more likely to pass than one with curly hair? What is next? Will schools be promoting skin-lightning creams as part of their curriculum? Or will body sizes be an issue in the near future? Imagine if my employer forced me to grow hair, just because it is the “norm”?

When I was in school, we were not allowed to put our hands in our pockets and to wear warm hats during winter, while teachers walked around with gloves, woollen hats and trenchcoats. Unfortunately, some took their frustrations out on hashish, but the young of today use hashtags.


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