To: Sans Souci Girls' High School Management: Charmaine Murray (principal), the School Governing Body, Debbie Schafer (MEC WCED) and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED)
This campaign has ended.
1. We, the current and former students of Sans Souci Girls’ High School (hereafter
referred to as The School), demand the immediate resignation of Charmaine Murray as principal; She has been the gatekeeper of institutional racism at the school and while we understand that the racism perpetuated within The School is institutional, she is and continues to be the foremost bastion of the system within that space and therefore she must be removed.
2. We demand that revision of the Code of Conduct in regards to the maintenance of black hair. This section of the Code of Conduct is inherently racist, defining cleanliness and professionalism along white standards; further entrenching the inferiority of blackness and that we are unwelcome in these spaces. The use of word “EXOTIC” to describe the hair of black students is also problematic and must be removed immediately.
2.1 Muslim students should also be allowed to wear religious apparel i.e. scarves and hijab freely without fear of discrimination or disciplinary action.
3. We demand the revision of the ‘language policy’ that forbids the speaking of native languages.
3.1 Black students are sent to detention for speaking their own language. Language is an important part of identity that most students lose in a space like this; students have experienced ostracism and humiliation for their identity because within the institution a student’s language is always referred to as ‘other’.
Furthermore, most students are able to explain certain topics in class to their fellow pupils so that they can understand the work better. If anything, it is a tool of inclusion in a system that constantly tries to exclude us.
4. We demand that students who are unable to pay their fees should not be excluded from school activities.
4.1 In 2014 matric students were barred from attending the Matric Dance if their fees had not been paid in full by October of that year. In addition to this, students who do not pay their fees are not given the school magazine and constantly reminded through comments by staff in public spaces such as assemblies of their financial situation
4.1.1 This perpetuates a classist system and humiliates students who cannot afford certain things and these are circumstances they have no control over as we do not work but our parents do. These are all exclusionary tools that must be stopped.
5. The School is made up of a majority of black students but the vast majority of educators are white. We demand that the school hires more teachers of colour to match the demographics of the school. It cannot be that we are consistently subjected to whiteness, when there are black teachers who are qualified. It would facilitate a better understanding between students and teachers considering the demographic of the school.
6. We demand the inclusion of isiXhosa as a subject in the Intermediate phase (Grades 8 and 9), alongside English and Afrikaans; and as a subject available for choosing in the Senior phase (Grades 8-10).
6.1 It is unconscionable that in a school comprised of predominantly black students that the language of those students is excluded – a further means of marginalising black identity.
7. We demand the cessation of The School’s oppressive heteronormativity. These years are vital in the formation of identities and that extends to sexuality; this discovery of self cannot occur in a space where heteronormativity is so heavily enforced.
7.1 Students should be allowed to bring their choice of partner to events in which this is appropriate i.e. the Matric Dance irrespective of how the student or their partner identifies.
7.2 Students should not be discriminated against because of how they identify
8. We demand transparency in the use of financial resources and The School budget.
8.1 This information must be readily available to the Student Body, Parents and the
8.2 Funds derived through the efforts of students are to be used for their intended purposes and accounts of this must be provided. Student funds raised for specific purposes have too often gone to other avenues that are never publicized, such as in the case of the High Tea of 2012 and the fundraising efforts of the
Representative Council of Learners in 2010.
9. We demand a review and restructuring of the Governing Body (hereafter referred to as The Body), especially in the following regard:
9.1 An expansion in the number of representatives on The Body
9.1.1 The number of present members necessary to secure quorum
9.1.2 A system of proxy voting
9.2 Greater inclusion of parent representatives
9.3 Greater inclusion of student representatives
9.3.1 Student representatives are to be included in substantive matters tabled by The Body as well as delivering reports on term events
10. We demand that students who stand up to the violence that the system subjects them
to must not be ostracized and victimised. Leadership positions must not be taken away an
Why is this important?
We write to you in the spirit of clarity and the hope of understanding. We write to you as one collective, as one body of students – both past and present, as parents, as allies, as one voice with one hope.
The institutional violence and systemic racism enacted upon us by the school is not new. We have hidden our experiences in the kinks of our hair, and swallowed the languages of our mothers into our throats. We have taken into our souls the oppression of a uniformity not designed with our bodies in mind. But no more. We have found our voice. We have taken that which we have sang for generations: to be of courage, vision and pride and have finally manifested our truth. This is the truth we will proclaim.
Mrs Murray, we ask you to step aside. We have been berated by you and marginalised by you. You have enforced upon us the kind of structural violence that requires healing of the soul. You have characterised us as reminding you of the Ugandan gorillas you saw on safari and mocked our ‘electrocuted’ Afro’s. You have been the gatekeeper of the school’s oppression, executing policies that define our identities within a construct of whiteness. You have made us suffer for a few, othered us in our own land. You have perpetuated a system in which we are forced to fight for our identities; a system in which our sisters become our jailers; a system that breaks our hearts. You have been tried and found wanting; it is time for you and the system which you represent to go.
Our experiences have shaped who we are. Your words taken root. Now is the time of reckoning.
See what you have done:
“Well the experienced I lived was when they told me that I had highlights on my hair... but my hair is naturally like that. My mom came and fought them and the worst thing is that they keep taking the teachers side.”
“When I was in grade 9 a teacher said something so offensive… She gossiped about me in Afrikaans thinking that I couldn't hear a word she was saying. She claimed the reason why the teacher who stood beside me was keeping her distance was because I had Ebola.”
“I remember a year ago or two years one of the SSGHS teachers did a "hair test" by pulling my hair down to see if it reaches my collar.”
“So the grade 11s were in geography. I don't know exactly what they were talking about but this girl, a white girl said "it is in black culture to rape and kill." She says that she apologised but all the other grade 11s denied it. A teacher told them that it was a "silly thing to say." No repercussions. It was brushed off.
Last year at our Valentine's day concert, the girl who was the MC said "Amandla". This same teacher called her and was speaking about the similarities between "Amandla" and the Swastika and the Nazis. The girl was kept in for both breaks. Her parents were even called in for it. She even had to write a letter to apologise.”
“The next time I was called in for my hair, my mother was with me. They accused me of emotionally manipulating her to get my way. They said my hair was not natural because it did not match my eyebrows.”
“They took away my leadership positions when they realized I didn’t buy into their rhetoric and spoke out on a public platform.”
“I was given a list of names and pictures of girls who had been speaking isiXhosa on the Mandalay bus. I was told to take action against them by the principal in the form of detentions and demerits.”
“Last year a teacher tormented us, day in and day out. She called us skilled liars, unreliable, and corrupt, said she'd never employ us and earlier that year she said first we [white South Africans] had to tolerate black people and now it's your [black] culture. This is a very racist remark. Another teacher said that bad smells are like the township; calling us bitches and walking out of class whenever she likes and when she's angry, leaving us with no education.”
“… Before the principal would see me about my being bullied, she demanded I undo my cornrows because ‘girls like me [coloured girls] didn’t wear our hair like that.’”
“At my interview, my dad asked the principal if I would be allowed to wear Hijab, and she responded saying ‘it would be a deal-breaker’.”
“I was told to dye my hair black because my natural colour was exotic.”
“I had to abbreviate my name because teachers couldn’t pronounce it and weren’t willing to try.”
Much has been said. There is still much to say. But no longer can we allow systemic violence and oppression to be the norm at Sans Souci. We can no longer tout uniformity as a means of control over black bodies. It is time for change. Our bodies have oppressed, our spirits crushed and our hearts broken; hear us when we say enough!
“We ask of you, Sans Souci, to inspire us in our youth. We’re building on our history and seeking for the truth.”