The end-term evaluation (ETE) of the School Feeding Programme (SFP), being implemented during the period January 2018-June 2021 in Cox’s Bazar district, supported by McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Grant through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been commissioned by WFP Country Office, Bangladesh (WFP-CO). The evaluation considers the evaluation questions specifically for the end-term of FY17 award and was conducted during the period June 2020– March 2021, wherein the data collection was done during the period, 20th December 2020 to 7th January 2021.
The USDA McGovern-Dole FY-17 project was expected to benefit 47,689 schoolchildren of Grades IV in 146 schools by providing approximately 9.3 million micro-nutrient fortified biscuits per year and supporting complimentary education interventions in two upazilas (Ukhiya and Kutubdia) of Cox’s Bazar.
The project was also expected to aid the formulation and operationalization of the first National School Meal Policy (NSMP) and help mainstream Government of Bangladesh’s National School Feeding in Poverty Prone Areas Programme (NSFPPA) into the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP IV).
The ETE serves several critical purposes intended for accountability and learning. The aim of the evaluation is to assess the achievement on project results, explore the strength of the exit strategy with a focus on achieving program sustainability and compare the end-term values with the baseline and mid-term values, through the lens of relevance, efficiency, impact, effectiveness and sustainability. For the end-term evaluation, while equal weightages on each of the OECD-DAC criteria have been given, the focus has been on impact and sustainability. The evaluation also strives to underline the key lessons learnt that can inform strategic and operational decisions for future programmes.
The evaluation attempts to highlight beneficiaries’ perspective and experiences (excluding students) with regards to the programme activities and results yielded. Additionally, gender equity and inclusion has been mainstreamed throughout the evaluation and the unintended impact of the programme on gender dimensions have also been assessed. Wherever appropriate, gender dimensions have been factored into the sub-questions/key information areas for each evaluation question.
In accordance with the circular of GoB, which restricts the access to teacher’s attendance to district and upazila officers, evaluation of indicators that required teachers’ attendance has been excluded from the scope of the evaluation. Furthermore, given the context on a global pandemic and its associated restrictions on travel, students were excluded as a respondent category for the end-term evaluation so as to prevent risk of exposure and ensure adherence to safety protocols. For the indicators for which primary data collection could not be done, values from the monitoring reports and the MTE have been used for the purpose of reporting.
The end-term evaluation adopted a mixed-method approach for primary data collection. The difference in status of indicators from baseline to end-term was examined through a comparison group visa-vis intervention schools supported by the FY-17 project.
Factoring the situation caused due to COVID-19, the data collection was scheduled in December 2020. The entire data collection process was carried out by ensuring that all safety guidelines were followed so that no respondents were subjected to risk for exposure to COVID-19. To ensure the safety of all the stakeholders involved, DMA (NRMC’s local partner in Bangladesh) carried out the data collection under the virtual guidance of the core evaluation team in New Delhi.
Following the simple random sampling approach adopted during baseline and mid-term, 50 Government Public Schools (GPS) were identified as sample (30 intervention and 20 comparison). The schools were selected randomly in the same proportion as the number of programme schools in the districts. The sample size was calculated at the programme level using the ‘differences method’ formula with a finite population. One parent of a student from each grade was selected per school (total 250 parents from 50 schools). From each school, one head teacher, one teacher, and one storekeeper were also interviewed. Overall 20 FGDs were conducted, 10 for each category i.e. mothers and SMC members.
Considering that the Difference-in-Difference analysis was not possible during the baseline, an activity evaluation was conducted wherein comparative monitoring data from the comparison schools was collected. Accordingly, for school feeding indicators, a direct comparison between the intervention and comparison schools has been carried out.
The implementation of the programme activities commenced from October 2018. Due to closure of schools since February 2020 and postponement of activities and re-alignment of implementation strategy due to COVID-19 prior to the commencement of data collection (December 2020) for ETE, the evaluation may not highlight or report significant change in the impact of the programme’s activities.
Given that students were not sampled for the end-term evaluation, data on significant indicators had to be captured through parents. Questions on oral fluency and comprehension could not be asked as the EGRA tool was not administered. The reporting on indicators for literacy outcomes therefore, has been done based on the data captured during the MTE and supplemented through the findings of the qualitative discussions.
Findings suggest that the programme is well aligned with the national government’s priorities, policies and strategies. The programme is aligned with the priorities of the NEP (2010), PEDP4, NPAN-2 as well as the NSSS (2015).
Given the persisting challenge of quality of education in Bangladesh (especially in Cox’s Bazar), the programme’s strategy that included providing trainings to teachers and headmasters on new teaching techniques and effective school management and establishing reading corners to improve Bangla reading comprehension, was relevant and responsive to the challenges. The biscuit distribution intervention finds its relevance given its role in improving attentiveness, attendance and enrolment of students. Community participation events such as “Read-play festival” and “Grade I reception day” celebrated as part of SFP also contribute to the relevance of the programme since they aim to address challenges related to awareness around attendance, enrolment and literacy and provide platforms to encourage understanding of and demand for quality of education.
The pandemic gave rise to new challenges, especially with regard to food insecurity and poor food consumption. In this context, SFP’s implementation strategy including i) distribution of fortified biscuits, ii) awareness generation on cooking and consumption of nutritious food and iii) promotion of vegetable gardens contributes to the relevance of the programme as it aims to address challenges of hunger, food insecurity and poor food consumption.
In the challenging context of the pandemic, WFP’s adaptation of its implementation strategy to emphasise on promoting health and hygiene practices, capacity building of teachers and SMC members, include more home visits, door-to-door distribution of biscuits and use of digital platforms to enable last mile delivery was responsive to the changing context and evolving needs of the community. SFP’s efforts to ensure continuation of students’ education at home through home visits and utilisation of online platforms such as Facebook and TV channels, made the interventions responsive and highly relevant.
However, despite such efforts, a large proportion of students remain unreached owing to a lack of access to devices and internet for online classes and communication.
SFP was also found to be complementing initiatives made by other donors and the government, through its provision of fortified biscuits to students and complimentary education interventions, further proving its relevance. Therefore, the evaluation team found that the implementation strategy adopted by the programme, adequately targets the right people with the right type of assistance and was therefore, found to be relevant.