CALA refers to various learning activities or assessments that require students to conduct detailed research based activities in specific areas where they incorporate practical activities such as data collection through interviews, questionnaires, checklists, observations and experiments.
In March 2021, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, announced the urgent revival of the continuous assessment framework for 2021 candidates meaning the activities are being done by grade seven, form four and upper six students.
However, Covid-19 has made it difficult for students to effectively and efficiently conduct the required activities as learning has been regularly interrupted since the pandemic was first reported in Zimbabwe in March last year.
“Some of these CALAs require students to be interact with the community for interviews, their teachers for guidance as well as their peers for discussions which is tricky in this environment,” said a Harare based high school teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“For example, learners are expected to do demonstrations in subjects like Physical Education, Sports and Mass Displays, construct and design of structures and models in technical subjects which requires the physical presence of the teacher to guide the learner or do dramatisations for those doing languages and Literature,” she said.
Government had delayed the reopening of schools, banned gatherings, prohibited non-essential travel in a bid to arrest surging number of cases.
Because of these measures, students’ conducting of CALAs has been compromised which has teachers to request that they be set aside until such a time when the situation has normalised.
“The continued extension of schools reopening means damage to the implementation of CALAs because they need time to be completed and this delay eats into that time. However, it must be noted that the extension is necessary and unavoidable because it is a question of life and death as Covid thrives in our congested classes and schools. This is why we want them to be stopped in the meantime,” said another teacher.
Contacted for comment Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, secretary general, Raymond Majongwe concurred with teachers noting: “CALA will just add unnecessary pressure and confusion.”
In a recent document published by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) titled: Urgent revival of continuous assessment learning activities (CALA): An unwelcome waste of limited learning time, the union argues that government should suspend the implementation and invest in holistic teacher capacitation including salary review.
“Adequate teaching and learning materials should be secured for our public schools. CALA should be introduced at the beginning of a learning course. Learners have lost learning time due to both Covid-19 disruptions and teacher incapacitation, the hurried implementation of the CALA framework is an unwelcome waste of both limited learning time and the little resources in our schools,” reads the document.
Government has maintained that CALA will proceed as planned but it remains to be seen if this position will remain unchanged.