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Teachers cash in on CALA

Taking advantage of desperate and clueless public examination candidates mostly in rural areas, some teachers wrote the recently introduced Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) projects on behalf of learners, some for a fee, investigations by CITE have shown.

CALA, which accounts for 30 percent of the final mark for the Grade 7s, ordinary and advanced level students is part of the new curriculum adopted in 2015 and is being implemented for the first time this year.

Under CALA, learners have to do three tasks per subject while being supervised by teachers who later grade them.

Despite repeated calls by teacher organisations for the government to postpone CALA implementation citing Covid-19 restrictions which saw learners spend the greater part of the year out of school, the latter would not budge.

For most schools, CALA projects which could have started much earlier had to be hurriedly done this last term of the year exposing the whole process to abuse and manipulation.

In Umzingwane for example teachers took advantage of the loopholes in CALA implantation and charged learners between R100 and US$10 per task. The practice, however, did not go down well with the area’s legislator, Levi Mayihlome, who took the matter to Parliament.

“What we have seen on the ground is that teachers are making rolling business doing the CALA assessment on behalf of school pupils charging R100 in rural areas and USD10 in urban areas because parents and pupils do not have access to the internet and those who have access have no clue on how to go to the internet to do the CALA system,” said Mayihlome.

Zimbabwe’s teachers, like all civil servants in the country, are poorly paid while their meagre salaries get easily eroded by inflation, a development that has forced the Harare administration to pay this year’s bonuses in foreign currency.

A teacher at a secondary school in Tsholotsho said very few educators in the area were doing CALA projects for learners owing to many parents’ unwillingness to pay for the services.

“This side how many people can give you all that money? She quizzed.

“Maybe in Bulawayo they can. Besides, as a teacher one can get overwhelmed by work not to mention running out of resources and be forced to charge more resulting in parents and learners failing to pay.”

Private candidates, according to a teacher in Matabeleland North, were the ones mainly targeted by the ‘enterprising’ teachers who manipulated CALA to their advantage.

“Here in Nkayi teachers were writing CALA projects for the children, not for money but to just assist them,” said a teacher from that district.

“In my own view, CALA has been harassing children in that they were tasked to go and look for something non-existent resulting in teachers writing the project on their behalf, without charging them.”

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Takavafira Zhou said the union received reports of teachers who were cashing in on CALA, adding chances of it happening were very high.

“It’s bound to happen in a country with more than 75000 trained teachers who are not employed and exploit every opportunity to sell their expertise,” said Zhou.

“Note that the practice was more fashionable with unemployed teachers, with a minority of current teachers involved. There were also even non-teachers involved in this. The driving power was poverty and an attempt to make ends meet.”

He said the hurried implementation of CALA necessitated the corrupt practice by the educators.

“The ready market created by the government’s rushed decision to implement CALA that must have been done over two years in three months was also tempting and lucrative as students were overburdened by numerous CALA work and looked for assistance anywhere,” explained Zhou.

Challenges of CALA, Zhou said, included rushed implementation, lack of budgetary allocation for training of teachers, development of assessment tools, standardisation and interoperability, and technological disparities and gaps.

“CALA is an issue of identifying, nurturing or developing life serving skills in students, and channeling them towards their areas of potential so that education becomes a vital cog of national development,” said Zhou.

“Sadly, the haphazardous meddling and muddling through in which it is executed leaves a lot to be desired. CALA projects must be reduced to one per subject area, tools of assessment must be appropriate to the skills intended to be nurtured or developed rather than adopting a one-size-fits all.”

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masaraure also confirmed receiving reports of teachers exploiting CALA for their selfish gains.

“The CALA process has turned out to be a big flop,” said Masaraure.

“Learners were not ready neither were teachers and parents. We have received reports that some teachers were charging learners and writing for them. We condemn this but also acknowledge that these teachers are poor and are trying to supplement their meagre income.”

For Masaraure, the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) has compromised the examination process to such an extent that very few people, teachers included, no longer care about cheating anymore.

“It is up to the exams body to restore this lost integrity by also taking exams seriously,” suggested Masaraure

He further said learners’ evaluation should commence simultaneously with the course taken, adding resources should be availed.

“Teachers should be trained, school administrators should be trained to supervise the process and teachers should be well paid to boost their morale,” he emphasized.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communication and advocacy, Taungana Ndoro, condemned the practice by the unscrupulous teachers, describing it as tantamount to writing examinations on behalf of learners.

“If that has happened, it’s an act of misconduct, an act of misconduct is held according to the code of conduct,” Ndoro told CITE.

“The government operates just like any other organisation. We institute disciplinary measures and after that there is remedial action. Investigations are ongoing.”

He added: “This idea of writing CALA for students is the same as writing an examination for a student, so it is treated the same way. That’s part of the misconduct that we are talking about. Those cases will be dealt with according to the code of conduct of the public service.”

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