By TAKAVAFIRA ZHOU, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President
The pre-occupation with Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) in schools in Zimbabwe has virtually crippled meaningful learning and teaching in schools.
Against professional advice given by teacher unions the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has imposed upon teachers and learners the burdensome CALA of three projects per subject area, a total of 18 CALAs for a Grade 7 pupil and even more than 45 CALAs for an ‘O’ level learner.
All this must be done before examinations. It also follows that for a class of 40 candidates, a teacher marks 40 x 40 projects, and if the teacher teaches five classes of 40 learners each, the teacher is obviously overwhelmed and the whole process is compromised.
The cumulative effect is that teachers have stopped teaching in schools while learners have stopped learning in schools in order to focus on the defective CALAs.
One wonders how these students would write exams without covering the syllabus given the long period of lockdown due to Covid-19 and the current pre-occupation with CALAs.
With several boarding schools becoming quarantine centres due to a quantum leap of Covid infections of pupils and teachers in schools, and several day primary and secondary schools giving pupils affected two weeks sabbatical leave at their homes, the CALA projects have been difficult to do by learners, let alone monitor and supervise by teachers.
Several other students under the incessant CALA pressure have turned to mercenaries to have CALAs done for them for US$10 per CALA project for Grade 7, and US$20 per CALA project for ‘O’ and ‘A’ level pupils.
The level of confusion over CALA, lacking as they do standardised assessment tools across the country, effective training of teachers, limited time for effective supervision and monitoring of learners, coupled with mercenary element that has cropped into CALA, have cumulatively turned it into a useless exercise that is derailing teaching and learning in 2021.
The 2021 results would be very bad as our prescription of educational challenges have been worse than the disease.
It is sad that Ministry officials as always, are intransigent, irresponsible and adopting commandist approaches over issues that need engagement with teachers who in essence are the linchpin in the supervision of learners and on ensuring the success or failure of CALA.
It is sad that as a nation we are failing to adopt and adapt to the serious challenges faced by the education system in Zimbabwe.
Planning in the comfort of offices has never been a prudent way as such offices are far detached from vagaries and realities in schools. Worse still occupying a big or spacious office is no substitute for critical thinking as knowledge does not come through an osmosis way that resonate with occupation of a big office at Head Office. The level of bureaucratic red tape at Head Office has become a liability in our education system.
As Ptuz we reiterate our long held view that there is no substitute for engagement in order to ensure the success of policy formulation and implementation in the education sector.
Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) is a student assessment regime being implemented during the second term in preparation for November 2021 Zimsec examinations.
CALA is any learning activity or assessment that requires learners to perform, demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency.
Under the regime, Zimsec candidates’ physical and behavioural skills are assessed continuously (coursework) to contribute 30 percent to their final marks. Summative or knowledge skills assessed during examinations contribute 70 percent to the candidate’s final grade. The government said the framework would be implemented for grade 7, form 4 and Upper 6, 2021 candidates. The programme is part of the 2015 adopted new curriculum but had been shelved because of lack of resources among other challenges.