Emotions ran high at Sans Souci Girls High School where learners protested for a second day against the school’s hair policy and alleged racism.
The trouble started early, just before 7am, and ended with learners being locked out of school, pupils being locked up in classrooms, police being called in, and worried parents rushing to the school after getting an SMS to say their kids were not there.
Nearly 200 meisies took part in the picket, chanting outside the gates and later, when they were allowed back on the school grounds, along the fence in Main and Glenhof Road, Newlands.
“Ons het kroes hare so what, we are proud of it!” learners shouted, with some motorists hooting in encouragement.
“We are proud of who we are, you can’t take that away from us,” another learner shouted.
The girls also held up their yellow merit books which they say is the school’s version of the dompas.
Xhosa-speaking learners told Daily Voice they are not allowed to speak their mother tongue while in school uniform.
“This is the school’s dompas! In this book we are demerited for speaking Xhosa,” one girl says.
Scores of girls gathered on the school field, defiantly demanding that the larney school drop its hair policies and that action be taken against teachers, who they claim call them monkeys and baboons.
Learners said the protest action over similar issues by their counterparts at Pretoria High School for Girls had given them the courage to speak out.
The protest got off to a tense start when teachers allegedly started locking gates and doors.
“They (teachers) locked the learners out who were protesting outside the gates this morning,” a Grade 9 learner says.
“The gates were closed at 7.10am when it normally closes at 8.50am.”
A matric learner adds: “They (teachers) didn’t want us to leave so they kept us in the hall after we finished our paper.”
Several learners broke down in tears as they recounted being insulted over their looks.
Grade 10 learner, Sibongile Ngceteni, says she’s had to change her hair four times since Grade 8.
“I know we are not supposed to have braids so when I started here I grew my hair,” she says.
“I was told that my hair is too exotic so I cut it short. Then teachers asked if I am trying to be a lesbian.
“Then I grew my hair into an afro and I was told it’s too African. I relaxed my hair and now I’m forced to tie my hair.”
The girl started sobbing, and adds: “People make fun of me and say I have a small ponytail.”
Sibongile’s mom, who is unemployed, says she had to cancel her job interview after she got the palie’s SMS that her child was not at school.
“I thought something had happened to her,” the mom says.
“I knew about some of the problems they have at school but I didn’t think it was this bad. My daughter told me a teacher called them baboons but I didn’t follow up on it,” she says.
Mother Alice Mbonga came out to support the protesting meisies.
She says: “These kids are expected to represent themselves in a certain way and that way for me is a very imperialistic, white way.”
A Grade 11 learner, who is a practising sangoma, said she had to get permission from the Western Cape Education Department to wear dreadlocks.
“I’m a sangoma and I wasn’t allowed to have dreadlocks as it goes against the school’s code of conduct,” she says.
“I had to fight a very long battle with the school to get my dreadlocks. I had to go to the Education department.”
Later the afternoon, school principal Ms Murry came out to address the learners, but quickly left when she saw people taking out their cellphones to make videos.
The Daily Voice also spotted members of the University of Cape Town’s Fees Must Fall movement, who looked on but did nothing.
Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for education MEC Debbie Schafer, says officials are probing allegations of racism and discrimination.
“The individual actions (of teachers) are being investigated and I will receive the report as soon as it’s finalised,” she says.