Durban - A top KwaZulu-Natal private school that prides itself on its "Christian ethos" has come under fire from parents and the Christian community after allowing a matric pupil to display several works of art that mocked Jesus as a clown at its end of year prize-giving ceremony.
A video made by an angry parent of a matric pupil at Grantleigh School near Richards Bay went viral on social media and caused a massive backlash against the school that on Tuesday had to issue a statement.
According to its website, Grantleigh Schools - situated just north of Richards Bay/Empangeni on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast - is an independent school and a member of the Curro Group that has a "Christian ethos and is set in a tranquil country environment offering old world values with new world standards".
But a Grade 12 art project has set tongues wagging after a parent made a video that showed the artwork which he said was "like they were crucifying Jesus all over again".
The parent who does give his name said he loved the school and the teachers but was so upset by the artwork that he could not stand around during the end of year prize-giving ceremony at the school this week.
The artwork includes several drawing where the Ronald McDonald clown has been inserted into various famous Christian paintings like the Last Supper and the Creation of Adam. There are drawings of demons and one artwork has a Bible that has been torn apart and moulded into the busts of demons.
"It's a disgrace. It broke my heart to see that you allowed this in this school. I want to encourage parents not to come to this school," the parent says in the video.
Andrew Norris, the Grantleigh Executive Head, in a statement on Tuesday, said they were aware of the social media outcry and an internal investigation has been launched.
"The project filmed and featured is part of a final submission to the IEB and was displayed in the school foyer as part of the year-end exhibition," Norris said.
"We have taken cognisance of the allegations made on social media; the matter is currently subject to and internal investigation. We want to reiterate that comments made is not an accurate reflection of our school and the situation referred to and we reserve our rights in this regard. Curro welcomes all comments that are constructive and contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner. However, we do not condone cyber-bullying, religious intolerance, hate speech, derogatory language, misrepresentation and comments reflecting negatively on our brand on any social media pages," he said.
In response to the school's statement, some parents took to its Facebook page.
Natasha Dhaver said: "Where was the guidance of the art teacher or school management? So this kind of expression is allowed, surely students should have guidance, and this was condoned. Unacceptable response from the school. Is this Christian? Does this glorify God? What a joke".
Erika Nortier said: "Shocked that you willingly associate with such a project, so proudly displaying something that does not fit your ethos. Shocked that you are shocked by social media responses and outcries. Shocked that you will celebrate such work. Shocked that the vast majority of your parents, school fee-paying parents, are happy with this image of your school being projected. Sad. I cannot get over how parents can allow you to let this caliber of work, images, thoughts, filter into young impressionable minds".
Beryllu Zwaanenburg added: "Okay, so that’s my thoughts will probably disgust some too, but hell, this post is out there for comment so here goes. This is art as interpreted by the viewer and my view is that they’re showing what the word is becoming. Ronald McDonald represents people who will save money by buying obviously unhealthy food (love for money being more important than the love for our own body which is a temple) Yes, we have been taught that tearing up the bible is unholy but remember these are year 12s, not primary school kids who created this to make the point that the world is moving towards evil. I take my hat off to them and the school for taking this brave step, regardless of the obvious backlash".