18:40 GMT02 August 2021
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    Decades after the end of South Africa's apartheid, the world would assume racism has also come to an end - or at least ceased to have continued in the same way it has - but this weekend, protests erupting at a high school in Pretoria have sparked a national debate around possible institutional prejudice still ingrained in society.

    A group of non-white pupils at the private "Pretoria Girls High" claim that they have have been told by predominantly white teachers to straighten their hair, whilst also being targeted for speaking their ethnic language to each other.

    The school which is a former white-only institution has been alleged to have asked students to "chemically straighten" natural afro and braided hairstyles for being deemed as looking "too messy" in an educational environment.

    It has also been reported that following a number of incidents involving students and teachers at the Pretoria school, a group of girls decided to hold a protest over the weekend after issues around their choice of non-uniform on "No-Uniform Day" had sparked them to take action.

    News of the protest soon spread locally and then wider across social media worldwide, where the hashtag #StopRacismatPretoriaGirls started gaining momentum on Twitter.

    The policy at Pretoria High School is said to imply that hairstyles that are not straightened, do not give the "conservative" impression as required by the school.

    Local reports also claim that the school is said to discourage its children from speaking in any native South African languages and that there have also been alleged incidences of teachers even using derogatory language towards some non-white pupils. 

    In addition to protesting at the school, one student even launched her own online campaign, utilizing people-powered media to highlight the issue.

    The page has had nearly 30,000 signatures, and not just locally but from around the world.

    As discussions continue locally, if anything else, what this incident has done is proven the speed at which news can travel online to gain global attention. Apart from this, it's highlighted the strong need for open dialogue in order for racially sensitive incidents in any country to be resolved as sensitively as is always required.

    Many people are commending the action of the girls for using online mediums and what is described as "peaceful methods" for getting their voices heard.     


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    South Africa, Pretoria, racism, school, society, high school, girls, teachers, apartheid
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