Teachers at a high school in KwaNongoma abandoned classes yesterday, accusing the principal of inciting pupils to target the deputy principal.
Irate pupils at KwaZiphethe Sivananda High School in KwaNongoma went on the rampage, vandalising and trashing the office of deputy principal Khethani Nkomo. The pupils accused Nkomo of neglecting them.
Other teachers fearing for their lives fled their classrooms and headed straight to the local education circuit offices. The teachers alleged school principal Ngangenkosi Ntshakala "colluded with the pupils to get rid of Nkomo".
The education department said 10 teachers had left their classrooms but added that the writing of matric examinations was not interrupted.
The school has 18 teachers.
One teacher said: "We have been having some issues at the school and most of them were between us (the teachers) and the pupils. The principal has turned the pupils against Nkomo."
Another teacher said Nkomo had lost a number of relatives recently, forcing him to be absent on certain days, and this was being used "as an excuse to oust him".
Teachers also complained that Ntshakala has been unable to address the ongoing conflict, saying that last week pupils went on the rampage and started singing anti-Nkomo songs.
"Instead of the principal protecting his teacher, he assured the pupils that he was going to remove him," said another teacher. "A teacher should be protected."
They also questioned the high turnover of teachers, saying eight had left "under a cloud" and two resigned.
Nkomo is on leave, fearing for his life.
Ntshakala was also unavailable for comment.
Provincial department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said: "Our district manager has assured us exams were not disrupted. The chief invigilator and few teachers that stayed behind ensured that exams were not disrupted, but we are closely monitoring the situation."
A meeting of the local circuit office, Sadtu and pupils was to take place late yesterday to try and resolve the issue.