A Christian arts academy in the South African city of Bloemfontein claims it can “cure” gay students of their sexuality and has likened its approach to a drug rehabilitation programme.

Creare Training Centre describes itself as a “theocentric arts, skills and ministry training centre,” – and that it seeks to improve “the quality of life” for its students.

However, South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reports Creare’s prospectus boasts that it seeks to convert gay students into heterosexuals through “rehabilitation”.

It also states gay students, who were unwilling to change their lifestyle, would not be welcome at the academy.

Equality campaigners have responded by denouncing the academy, describing it as “tragic, shameful and deeply hurtful.”

Yet its founder, Cornelis van Heyningen, denied that the institution was discriminatory.

“We are catering for those who say ‘I want to change as a homosexual’. That’s not saying no homosexuals are allowed.”

He compared the academy’s stance on homosexuality to a drug rehabilitation programme.

Dawie Nel, the director of gay rights organisation OUT, said the academy’s stance breached South Africa’s anti-discrimination laws.

“Their comments fuel violent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, such as the rape of gays and lesbians to ‘cure’ them; or even murders being committed,” he warned.