BY CHAMUNORWA MATANHIKE
STAKEHOLDERS in the education sector have castigated the Primary and Secondary Education ministry’s insistence on the controversial Continuous Assessment Learning Activities (CALAs) for 2021 examination classes, describing it as the worst decision ever made.
In a circular to stakeholders, the ministry’s permanent secretary Tumisang Thabela ordered schools to implement CALAs for Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6 learners.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said teachers were grossly incapacitated and not in a position to cover the syllabus as well as oversee CALA researches and assessments.
“The ministry is setting itself up for a huge but unnecessary embarrassment by chewing more than can be swallowed at this point in time. We still maintain that CALAs should be postponed to next year and be written by the next group of candidates,” Majongwe said.
“To put matters into perspective, a Grade 7 candidate who is writing six subjects this year will do 18 CALAs before the end of October, while an “A” Level candidate will do at least nine and an “O” Level candidate, writing five subjects will do 15,” he said.
National Association of School Heads (NASH) president Arthur Maphosa questioned how teachers were going to oversee the CALAs considering the little time left.
“The teachers are expected to mark 27 CALAs per learner multiplied by 40 learners within two months. Worse still at a high school some teachers teach two learning areas. This is not possible,” Maphosa said.
Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary-general Munyaradzi Majoni said insisting on CALAs in the 2021 ZIMSEC session could be the worst mistake the ministry ever made.
“It’s a decision which is all wrong and hugely uninformed by what is on the ground. We are in schools and I can tell you with absolute certainty that any attempt to bulldoze CALAs this year will be disastrous,” Majoni said.
Education Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Tapedza Zhou said the decision was ill-informed.
“The ministry’s persistence that CALAs should continue is an insensitive and incompetent decision. The world over, responsible authorities have put in place mitigatory measures in view of the decimating COVID-19 pandemic in various ways.”
“In our case, this resulted in the introduction of a compressed syllabus. Paradoxically, a compressed syllabus is then immediately followed by CALAs which just puts back the stress for the student and teacher, which had been avoided in the first place,” said Zhou.
A high school teacher, who asked not to be named, said CALAs were going to burden learners and teachers as they prepare for final examinations.
“CALAs are a huge burden on learners whose main focus at this time should be preparing for the upcoming exams.
“For a learner doing eight subjects to be expected to complete 24 CALAs at a time when learning time was disrupted by the COVID-19-induced lockdown is simply asking for too much.”
“Teachers are also ill-prepared for CALAs after so much teaching and learning time was lost, teachers must be focused on completing their syllabi and preparing learners for exams,” he said.
Some CALAs require students to go out into communities to investigate, currently a difficult feat due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings.
A parent, Nhamo Mugandani, said even though he understood the importance of CALAs, their implementation was hurried as they were supposed to start from Grade 3 and Form 1.
Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro was not available for comment.
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