South Africa

Short hair among black pupils wasn’t forced at KwaSizabantu, commission hears

A former pupil and current teacher at the KwaSizabantu Mission School says the issue of short hair among black pupils was never a point of contention for her.

Nobuhle Waega told the CRL Rights Commission in Durban on Thursday that in the years she has spent at the mission and as a pupil at the school, she was never asked to cut her hair.

However, she said she came into the mission with short hair and never desired for it to be long.

“I never heard anything about keeping your hair short. They never said anything about it. When I came to the mission, everyone was keeping their hair short. It was never a problem to me because I never even [grew] my hair before.”

Waega said she was also never approached to discuss her hair.

“I was not aware of any hair issue. Nobody ever came to me and [said] you need to cut your hair. I kept my hair short because I grew up keeping my hair short. My dad used to say I looked beautiful with short hair so I kept it that way.

“You can cut it shorter if you want to, but that is up to you. It was never said, I never heard it. No one ever read it to anyone I know.”

Everyone wants short hair

She said everyone at the school wanted their hair short.

“In my experience, not one person wanted their hair long. No one ever came to me and said so. None of my friends wanted to grow their hair.”

Commissioner Richard Botha remarked that this was strange. “You would think that you go for holidays and make your hair like your friends, but I never did it.”

Botha was not convinced, saying children by their very nature test boundaries.

“Not a single child in the five years I was there said that to me.”

When asked what would happen if a child wanted to grow their hair, Waega was evasive. “You can maybe ask the school on more information on that issue.”

Botha pushed on, using the example of his own school experience of having teachers check the length of his hair. However, Waega was not moved.

“No, that never happened, checking centimetres? No, that never happened.”

Virginity testing

She also said she was never put through virginity testing, something many have bemoaned was done to only black children at the mission.

“I was not aware. I only heard it when it came from the news. There were allegations. I’ve never heard or seen that story.”

She was asked about her relationship with boys in the school. “I was never interested in boys. There was never anyone who told me about it, it was God in me.”

She said God would show her her husband when she was ready. “If he [God] wants, he will show me a husband one day. But for now, I am a virgin and I am free.”

She said she also would not be friends with boys.

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