A letter purportedly written by Sans Souci Girls’ High School administrators detailing “definite changes” to its code of conduct on hair and language, has caused confusion, according to one former pupil.
Billie Jean Demas said girls did not know who had formulated the new policies.
“This letter is not on an official school letterhead. We have no idea who it is coming from, which further points to the fact that we have no idea who is running the school currently.”
She said teachers, pupils, parents, and alumni were not consulted about the new policies, as was agreed during a meeting with Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer on Monday evening.
Inclusivity and respect
Teachers at the Newlands, Cape Town, school handed the letter to pupils on Wednesday. Parents and guardians were required to sign it.
“Pupils’ hair must be neat. Braids are permitted, hair must be ones’ natural colour and must be neatly tied up if over the collar,” it states.
English was the medium of instruction, except in Afrikaans classes, but pupils were allowed to explain in any language of their choice, with their teacher’s permission.
“Outside of teaching situations, we believe that inclusivity and respect should be the guidelines when speaking in groups and that pupils be able to speak in the language of their choice.”
Alleged racism against black pupils came to the fore last month when pupils at Pretoria High School for Girls protested against rules on how they had to wear their hair and their treatment at the hands of some of their teachers. Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi ordered an investigation into the school.
The Gauteng education department subsequently said it would communicate with schools to ensure their policies were in line with the Constitution.
Sastri College in Greyville, Durban, amended its hair policies after a group of pupils protested, The Mercury reported on Tuesday.
Who is in charge?
Demas questioned whether Sans Souci’s principal Charmaine Murray was still in charge.
“We don’t know because the letter is not signed.”
Demas called on parents not to sign it. She said the changes were still exclusionary.
She said a few girls had said the atmosphere at the school was getting better, but that there was still much hurt in the air. Some teachers had apologised to girls for their “complacency”, but the school “in its entirety”, still needed to apologise.
‘Still under discussion’
The Western Cape Education Department, speaking on behalf of the school, said the school issued the letter to inform parents that while the code of conduct was under review, some rules were still in place.
“Changes to San Souci’s code of conduct are still under discussion,” spokesperson Millicent Merton told News24.
Schafer on Thursday said a circular was sent to all schools in the province advising them that the drawing up of codes of conduct had to include everyone they affected.
It was important that schools ensured their codes were representative of an inclusive society and in line with the values enshrined in the Constitution.