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Illegal school shuts doors after pupil's hair row

Parents frustrated about the future of their children

EFF members demonstrating outside Crowthorne Christian Academy in Midrand. The school has since been closed after it was revealed it's operating illegally.
EFF members demonstrating outside Crowthorne Christian Academy in Midrand. The school has since been closed after it was revealed it's operating illegally.
Image: Antonio Muchave

A Johannesburg school at the centre of a hair policy controversy has shut its doors, leaving parents frustrated about the future of their children. 

Yesterday, the Crowthorne Christian Academy in Midrand told parents via a text message that it would shut its doors indefinitely and that an explanation would be provided to parents soon.  

The school caused outrage after a video emerged on Monday showing a 13-year-old learner and her mother being pushed by the school’s officials during a confrontation about the learner’s dreadlocks which the school deemed to be in violation of its “no extensions” policy. Her parents, however, insisted the hair was natural. 

The teenager was dragged out and barred from the school while other children watched. The incident was caught on video, which has since caused outrage on social media. 

It emerged on Tuesday that the school was in fact not registered with the Gauteng department of education (GDE), making it illegal.

There were no classes at school on Tuesday as EFF supporters protested outside the premises demanding to see the principal, Tanya Booysen. The school deployed private security to prohibit protesters from entering the premises. 

South African Human Rights commissioner Andre Gaum said the incident appeared to be a prima facie violation of various rights of the learner, including the right to basic education, cultural rights and not be unfairly discriminated against on prohibited grounds and human dignity.

“If she [parent] lodges a complaint with the commission, we will assess it and decide on the best cause of action to take in order to address these alleged violations and secure redress,” said Gaum 

Concerned parents yesterday said they were unsure whether they should look for other schools and if their children were certified to proceed in those grades. 

“I am worried having learned that the school is illegal. I honestly did not know. I do not know what that means for my child but I need to find her a new school,” said a mother, adding that she was unsettled by the school’s hair policy when it was first communicated in April. 

“The change in the hair policy was communicated on the WhatsApp group. No consultation whatsoever. There was no meeting to communicate the reasons the school did not want braids or extensions at the school. We are black, braids are a protective hairstyle. So if my child has to go through winter and summer in her natural hair it's going leave brittle. But no one was speaking out.” 

Another parent said she needed some directive from the school or the department on what parents should do moving forward. “The school needs to give us answers, hopefully the department can also help... we cannot be left in the dark like this and be getting information about a school we pay, on social media. This is really disappointing. 

“The hair policy made a lot black parents uncomfortable because extensions clearly refer to braids and black people wear them as a protective hairstyle. Why were we not asked or consulted as black parents on what the best way is to keep our hair neat?  

“The school is not communicating with us. The school sent us a message, last night [Tuesday] saying there was an incident at the school, but it was resolved with the intervention of the department. But they did not tell us that the incident was about the hair policy that some of us were against and tried to raise with the principal.”

Tertius Ngawose, a father of a former grade 7 pupil, said the latest hair policy was among many other reasons he removed his child from the school two months ago.  

He said Booysen ran the school in an arrogant way and treated learners as if they are in a military base. 

“The hair thing for me was an issue but there were other issues such as her academia, complaints about her uniform and how the children were disciplined that led to me taking her out. There was just a lot going on at that school and most times I chose not to fight because of the nature of the principal. I chose to fight my battles wisely,” he said. 

While he had an issue with the hair policy, the father admits that he did not lay a complaint with the school but rather chose to remove his daughter from the school.  

“It was selfish of me not to properly check when enrolling my child, but I had trust in the school. In my opinion that school should just be closed down because it serves no one. It is illegal and the way Tanya [Booysen] runs that school is just wrong,” he said. 

The Independent Examination Board’s (IEB) Margie Luckay confirmed Crowthorne Christian Academy is not affiliated with the board. 

“The most important criterion for a school to be an affiliate is that they must be registered with the department,” she said.  

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