Back in 2017, the Zimbabwean government introduced a new syllabus. At its heart is the continuous assessment learning activities also known as CALAs. Under this scheme, students would not only get a final grade based on what they wrote in the final examinations.

Students would be required to conduct certain learning-related activities and which would be weighted into the final grade they obtained at the end of their final years. With CALAs students write reports on these activities and are assessed based on the contents of these reports.CALAs constitute 30% of the final grade.

Academic mecernaries to the rescue

Due to complications, the government had not yet introduced CALAs since the new syllabus change. This year, however, the government wrote a memo to schools telling them that CALAs were now back on the table. This resulted in a scramble as unprepared students rushed sought to complete their CALA reports.

As this is something new most schools were unprepared and did not know how to do the CALAs. This is where academic mercenaries stepped in. Traditionally academic mercenaries have offered their services to tertiary students performing such tasks as doing assignments and writing dissertations.

Now their much-needed skills are being desperately sought after by secondary and Grade7 students too. With high demand for their skills, most mercenaries are now making a killing. Some charge as much as US$100 per student in return for completing CALAs.

They often make use of what are known as “bodies” i.e a rubric which they alter per student. This means that they don’t really have to go out into the field and do additional research. They just sit at their desks and alter the same document over and over again making it “unique” to each student.

Despite the government’s assistance that CALAs are helpful, academic mercenaries negate whatever benefits the process is supposed to bring. It’s also difficult to see how the government will be able to prevent academic mercenaries from ruining the entire process. This also puts poor rural students at a disadvantage. While rich urban kids can hire people to do their CALAs rural students who often lack many other resources have to do theirs by themselves.