Why In the Hell Is Natural Hair A Problem In South Africa?

Many would think attending school in South Africa and having natural hair would not be a big deal, but most likely the norm. However, that does not seem to be the case at the prestigious Pretoria high school for girls.

Student protests against what they’re calling “hair racism” is making its way around the news with many wondering why a South African school has a problem with natural hair.

17-year-old student, Malaika Maoh Eyoh, told The Guardian a teacher said her afro was “distracting others from learning.”

READ: Cartoon Shames Black Character’s Natural Hair

She described the comment as “aggressive” and it made her feel “really scared to come to school.”

Now wearing her hair in braids, Eyoh is part of the 100 students made up of young women who are protesting against the school for allegedly forcing Black students to straighten their hair.

“There were a lot of emotions because the last five years of our high school student careers had built up to this,” said Eyoh.

Photos from the protest have since gone viral in South Africa and an online petition was launched against the alleged hair policy with more than 10, 000 signatures.

The head of education in Gauteng province, Panyana Lesufi, ordered an independent audit of the school “to investigate all claims of racism.”

“The code of conduct … is insensitive to different people and discriminates badly against black pupils as it asks them to straighten their hair,” said Lesufi.

“That is not fair because some pupils have natural[ly curly] hair so we have agreed with the student governing body that it be suspended.”

Eyoh and her friend, Palesa Sidibe, spoke on the many times they witnessed discrimination at Pretoria. There was the time a student was pulled out of class and given Vaseline to flatten her hair and a teacher called Nelson Mandela and the ANC terrorists. Eyoh and Sidibe said the young women in South Africa’s prestigious schools have been told “not to be Black.”

It should be noted Pretoria girls school has a history of being attended by Whites only, but opened up to Black students after the end of the apartheid in 1994. Even though there is a list of rules about hair in the school’s code of conduct, there is nothing about afros specifically.

Hopefully, the school recognizes how they’re discriminating against their students and begin worrying about molding their brains and not how their hair is styled.


Photo Credit:

Brittney Fennell

Brittney Fennell

Brittney is the Associate Editor of Jawbreaker and a writer who has goals to disrupt culture in ways unseen.