Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 14 September 2010

Braidy bunch in trouble

In a bold move to enforce discipline, a Durban school barred 15 Grade 12 pupils from writing a preparatory exam after they broke its code of conduct when they showed up with fancy hairdos and braids.

The Mzwamandla High School, Umlazi, pupils were turned away from the exam room as KwaZulu-Natal pupils sat for their maths and English papers yesterday. They were barred from writing maths but were later allowed to write the English paper.

The upset girls, who refused to be named, said the school was supposed to have a matric dance on August 19, which was, however, postponed to the end of this month as a result of the three-week public servants’ strike. They said that while the school had instructed them on Friday to remove the hairstyles, they had chosen not to because they could not afford to redo them for the matric ball.
“The teachers told us that as matrics, we can braid our hair in whatever way after June. We spent a lot of money on our hair in preparation for the matric dance. It’s not our fault that it was cancelled because of the strike. We refuse to undo our braids because we can’t afford to redo them at the end of the month,” said the group.

Nathi Mbokazi, Congress of South African Students (Cosas) eThekwini  convenor, who intervened on behalf of the pupils, said the school could have been more flexible in handling the matter.
“We won’t tolerate pupils being deliberately barred from writing their exams just because of hairstyles. The school could have come up with flexible ways of punishing the pupils,” he said.

The school’s deputy principal, Mzo Dlamini, however, denied that the school had allowed pupils to braid their hair in whatever hairstyle after June. Dlamini said that while the school was willing to exercise flexibility in the matter, the group had been “arrogant” which had forced the school’s hand in barring them from writing the maths test.
“Grade 12 does have some flexibility when it comes to their hair, but the school is clear on the fact that they cannot braid their hair using synthetic hair extensions. We only allow braids done with natural hair,” said Dlamini.
“The girls were told to undo their hairstyles on Friday. We have more than 200 pupils in matric. It’s only a small group that decided to disobey the school’s orders and they were very arrogant in addressing us as teachers. They were actually shouting orders at us and we cannot allow that. They will write another maths paper, but it will have to be set especially for them,” he said.

KZN Education Department spokeswoman Mbali Thusi said the school was entitled to enforce its code of conduct.

Sinegugu Ndlovu