Noko Moabelo, the principal at Mmasehlong Primary School, stands in a classroom where a teacher was killed. Photo: Moloko Moloto

A Grade 7 teacher invigilating an exam at a Polokwane primary school was hacked to death, allegedly by his brother, in front of his 40 pupils.

Gilford Shapo, 53, was hacked several times in the head with a machete and died a few hours later at WS Knobel Hospital.

The incident happened at Mmasehlong Primary School in Ga-Mmasehlong village in the Moletjie area on Tuesday.

Shapo’s 40-year-old brother was arrested and was expected to appear in court on Thursday.

The motive for the attack was unclear – the brothers did not live together and relatives say that while Shapo’s younger brother lost his job four months ago, he had not fought with anyone.

“We were alerted by the pupils as they screamed and ran out of the mobile classroom,” said Noko Moabelo, the school’s principal.

She said other teachers did not restrain the attacker because they feared for their lives.

“Mr Shapo was the only male teacher at the school. As women, none of us could take the risk of approaching the suspect,” said Moabelo.

Villagers who heard the children’s screams rushed to the school and restrained the machete-wielding man, who was still allegedly hacking at his brother.

Police and paramedics were called in. Shapo was reportedly still alive when the ambulance fetched him. He was bleeding profusely, said Moabelo. She said the incident happened at about 9am.

Khomotso Shapo, the victim’s wife, said the entire family had been left traumatised.

She said that since the suspect returned from Gauteng after he had lost his job four months ago, he had not talked to anyone in the family.

“My children are wondering why their uncle, of all people, killed their father,” she said.

The provincial education department closed down the school on Wednesday.

“We will send our officials to counsel the pupils and teachers on Thursday (today),” said department spokesman Pat Kgomo.

Sharon Meso said her 15-year-old niece kept recounting the incident.

“She has explained to us how the man entered the classroom and how he attacked their teacher,” said Meso.

Shapo’s killing has again put the spotlight on safety issues at schools.

Two weeks ago, a parent, Nkele Kgomo, allegedly threatened to kill teachers at Flora Park Comprehensive High School in Polokwane.

She allegedly physically assaulted two teachers.

She had been angered by the school’s decision to bar her son from writing Grade 11 exams while wearing a Flora Park Comprehensive High School uniform. The pupil was not registered at the school.

He had been expelled from Hoërskool Noordeland in August on several charges, including the assault of a teacher.

The department let him write his exams at Flora Park but the school would not let him wear their uniform because he was not a pupil there.