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Continuous Assessment Learning and Climate's Deadly Blow To Learners

Villagers say the introduction of CALA to the curriculum plays a role in the poor pass rate in the province. Image by Unsplash

BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 8, 2022
Analysts say climatic events characterized by extreme temperatures, extreme long dry spells and heavy downpour are some of the events which have contributed to poverty in rural communities.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Letwin Sibanda, a Form 4 student at Lukosi secondary school in Hwange, Matabeleland North, wakes up early to fetch water at Lukosi River for watering a family garden.

Not only does the garden provide some nutritional value for the meals, it is where Sibanda gets some money for her Continuous Assessment Learning Activity (CALA) school project after selling vegetables.

It may not be enough, but Sibanda is happy that she does not have to burden her parents asking for money to photocopy and print some CALA school work.

“Sometimes I feel like giving up on the garden. It does not give me much, but that is my only source of income to assist me financially on my CALA project,” she says.

CALA, which is part of the new curriculum introduced in 2017, constitutes 30% of the total examination marks for Grade Seven, Ordinary and Advanced Level students.

It requires learners to perform, demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency of the subject concerned.

The module demands that students apply what they learnt in context through activities.

But for learners like Sibanda, the climate change effects characterized by drying rivers, and prolonged dry spells present challenges.

“I find it very hard for me to juggle between household chores where I have to brave the scorching sun for hours looking for water. After all the household chores, I have to start researching and look for printing facilities for the CALA projects,” she explains.

Daniel Sithole, an Environmentalist from Green Shango Trust, says the education sector, particularly in Matabeleland North, suffers the effects of climate change.

“The extremely low rainfall in Hwange which results in food insecurity often leads to poverty, and in most scenarios when there is extreme poverty, young people in this case, school children suffer the most.”
Daniel Sithole, Green Shango Trust environmentalist

Statistics from the Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) show 325 573 pupils sat for their 2021 Grade 7 examinations, a 0,6  percentage decrease compared to the 2020 entry of 327 559.

Teachers’ unions have campaigned for CALA to be suspended to no avail.

A total of 51 primary schools in Matabeleland North had a zero percent pass rate in the 2021 grade 7 public examinations. In 2020, 85 schools recorded a zero pass rate in the province.

Journalist and Child rights activist Calvin Manika from Bancane Trust says the introduction of CALA to the curriculum played a major role in the poor pass rate in the province.

“As we look at the extreme climate effects such as low rainfall for the past years and also the shortage of water in their communities, which as a result forces children to walk long distances in search of water, deprives the learner’s time to study.”
Calvin Manika, Journalist and Child rights activist

Teachers’ unions have campaigned for CALA to be suspended to no avail.

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“From our research and information from our online community round table discussions, we gathered that CALA plays a role in the low pass rate of learners in schools, learners are not capacitated, teachers are not capacitated so there is a lot of pressure from all ends, parents and learners, teachers,” Manika adds.

“Some parents cannot afford to have an extra dollar for extra lessons, and also extra money for the CALA projects, these are some of the causes of low pass rate in Matebeleland North province.”

*Discloser: Calvin Manika is The Citizen Bulletin’s Matabeleland North Senior Correspondent.

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