"Pupils" attending classes of an adult literacy programme - Masifundisane Literacy in Amaoti, north of Durban - have been abandoned by teachers demanding payment.
The programme is run by the office of the premier in conjunction with the Department of Education.
About 30 teachers have not attended classes because they had not been paid their wages as stipulated in their contracts.
Sonto Khuzwayo, a supervisor for the teachers, said they decided to down tools because they had not received their stipends of R1 000 a month.
She said before starting to teach old and illiterate people in their area, they were told that each of them had to have 10 adult learners to teach.
"After meeting the stipulated requirements we went to a five-day training course," Khuzwayo said. "After that we started our classes in June and were promised we would be paid R1000. But that has not happened.
"Whenever we made enquiries with project manager, Bulelwa Gwagwa, about our incentives, she would give us any excuse you could think of."
Khuzwayo said initially Gwagwa told them they would get their money but later changed to saying they were volunteers.
"We should have been told from the beginning that we were volunteers. Not after we had complained about nonpayment," Khuzwayo said.
"Some of us rent the places we use for classes."
Nomusa Mkhize, one of the teachers, said they had to stop teaching because they had not received a single cent.
"How can they expect us to continue teaching without getting anything out of our hard work?" she asked.
A learner, Fikile Khuzwayo, 55, said they had been badly affected by the situation.
"We had direction in our lives," Khuzwayo said. "It was so exciting since I am now able to write my name. I was badly affected when the classes stopped.
"They must sort our out teachers so that we can continue with our classes."
Ironically the turmoil comes after Premier Sbu Ndebele last week hailed the literacy campaign in a speech during a graduation ceremony.
One of the graduands was a 107-year-old granny Bamisile Shabangu.