Students at the South African high school Pretoria High School for Girls are bravely protesting for the right to wear their natural hair to school. Girls as young as 13 have rallied and defied discriminatory practices at their school that ban natural Afros, according to Quartz.
Pretoria High School for Girls is a formerly all-white school (desegregated in 1994) and mandates that cornrows, dreadlocks, and braids cannot be larger than 10mm in diameter (1/3 of an inch). While the rules do not specifically mention hairstyle, many of the girls have faced backlash and hate for choosing to wear their hair natural. Student Leago Mamabolo said her hair was referred to as a “bird’s nest” because of her dreadlocks. “You’re in fear when you go to school because you know you will be policed,” she said in the Guardian.
Other girls have opened up with similar, heartbreaking experiences. In one incident, students were forced to comb their hair before being allowed to eat dinner. Another time, black girls were told to “stop making those funny noises,” in response to speaking their traditional language, according to Quartz.
But these girls have reached a boiling point and have had enough with oppressive treatment. They are gathering for the right to self-express and value their own blackness. One girl, Zulaikha Patel, who was photographed protesting in front of a white man, stood calm as police threatened to take her to jail. She courageously said in defiance, “They want to take us prison ... take us all," according to the Daily Vox.
These girls are not backing down and I hope their brave acts will inspire black girls all over the world to love their natural hair.
Images from #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh
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Patricia is a writer, activist, and aspiring journalist. She likes writing about politics, sexuality, and feminism. She is a bit of a wanderer and has lived in Morocco, Australia, and India. Recently moved to Brooklyn, she is currently learning to navigate NYC subways.