Black pupils still battling on many fronts

A group of Eldomaine high pupils were kicked out of class for wearing skinny pants.
A group of Eldomaine high pupils were kicked out of class for wearing skinny pants.

The struggle still continues for pupils at public schools.

Unlike the 1976 youth who fought against Afrikaans, today's black youth is faced with many challenges.

If it is not racial slurs, black pupils are told their hair or traditional beads are unacceptable. They are also fighting to have indigenous languages recognised in schools.

Parent Ntsoaki Lengau, 38, said the struggle is far from over.

"High school has been a daunting experience for my 16-year-old daughter. She has been embarrassed because of her dreadlocks.

"I expected teachers to teach her as long as the child is neat and presentable. Our schools still have a long way to go. The 1976 generation fought the apartheid system but these days parents have to fight against teachers who are bullies," she said.

Another talking point at schools was the issue of school uniform that saw boy pupils wearing skinny grey pants.

Octavia Veltman, 17, who was sent home last year for wearing skinny grey pants, said their struggle is different from that of the 1976 youth.

"I don't understand why schools still have a problem with us wearing skinny pants. Baggy pants are so outdated," Veltman said.

President of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) John Macheke said their struggle was to eliminate apartheid in schools.

"We are still dealing with schools that are racist and undermine a black child. We have taken a step back in terms of our curriculum."

He said the class of 2019 still faced challenges. "Pupils are still being taught about Jan van Riebeeck instead of South African history. We have platinum in the North West but most pupils there don't even know what it looks like. We also want pupils to be taught about life science in their own mother tongues," he said.

Many racist incidents have played out at SA schools. In 2016, the powerful image of Zulaikha Patel, then 13, in school uniform standing up to a man with her arms crossed above her head became a symbol of the fight against Pretoria girls high's policy regarding black girls hair. The hair issue has been one of the struggles faced by black pupils.

In February last year, 12 boys from Eldomaine High School in Eldorado Park were kicked out of class because their grey long pants were tailored to skinny detail from the original straight cut.

Early this year, Bongiwe "Lwandle" Ngobese, 15, a grade 10 pupil at Sunward Park High School who is a practising sangoma was allegedly called "a demon" by educators at the school for wearing her traditional beads and bracelets. In the scorching heat, she was forced to wear a jersey to school to cover up the beads.

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke, a North West primary school, was thrust into the spotlight in January when a picture surfaced of grade R pupils who were seemingly segregated by race.

The picture showed four black pupils seated at a desk placed at one end of the classroom while 18 white children were placed at a separate longer table in the middle of the class.

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