Black students at a South African girls’ high school are staging protests this week against rules governing how they must wear their hair. According to Al Jazeera, the protests were sparked when a 13-year-old student was told by her teacher that her afro was too unruly after she turned in an essay on how black women suffer because of “white privilege.” Her fellow students organized a protest to show “that we had enough of the bigotry and racism that we face at school,” one student said.
“Derogatory comments about our existence have riled us up,” a student told Al Jazeera. “My hair is my choice. I don’t have to put in a weave,” she said. “This is my natural hair.”
For the first protest, a group of black students dressed in all black and wore head wraps to a school assembly, at which they were greeted with heavy security, they said. The girls then attempted a second protest on school grounds over the weekend, during a fair being held on the property, but were again met with security guards who were heavily armed.
“We were met with high-risk security, people with handguns, AK-47s, security dogs. This was an annual family event,” the student said.
By Monday, an online petition had gathered nearly 20,000 signatures and called on authorities to stop discrimination at the school. They claim that the school has forced students to straighten their hair. The school requires that hair must be brushed and “conservative” braids, dreadlocks, and cornrows must be no more than 10 millimeters in diameter.
“In a country with a black majority, how can you tell black students that their hair is unnatural?” former student Mishka Wazar said.
Read the full story at Al Jazeera.