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Photograph: Photo by Jonelle B., used under CC BY

Protests have erupted at a South African girls' school after teachers were accused of making racist remarks about black pupils' hairstyles, the local news agency ANA reported Monday.

Protesters gathered in front of the Pretoria High School for Girls, a school source, who did not want to be identified, said.

A provincial education official was visiting the school, located in the administrative capital Pretoria, after more than 4,500 people reportedly signed a petition asking him to intervene.

"We are tired, we are tired," hundreds of black students chanted.

The school's code of conduct does not specifically outlaw afros, but requires that hairstyles must be "conservative," that "hair must be brushed" and that cornrows, natural dreadlocks and braids must be "a maximum of 10 millimetres in diameter."

ANA quoted some of the girls as telling the education official that teachers had told them their hair was "untidy," that it looked "like a bird's nest," while one teacher allegedly called a pupil "a monkey."

The authorities had also received complaints that pupils were not allowed to speak African languages, the website Times Live reported.

"It is unacceptable that in a country in which black people are a demographic majority‚ we still today continue to be expected to pander to whiteness and to have it enforced through school policy," Times Live quoted the petition as saying.

The school source told dpa: "We are not making any comments at the moment."

"The headmistress and the people involved ... are trying to sort this out," she added.

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