Endline Evaluation of Udaan II: Catching the Missed Opportunity — Final Report

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive Summary

Udaan II “Catching the Missed Opportunity”, funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development, was one of the most important initiatives under the LEAD program of CARE Nepal. The LEAD program envisions education and economic prosperity as an instrument to women and girls’ empowerment, through transforming harmful social norms, building life skills and advocating related policy reforms. Under the LEAD Program, the Udaan initiative provided an intensive, 11-month high-quality condensed curriculum for adolescent girls (Dalit, Muslim and other marginalized groups) aged 9-14 of Kapilvastu District, who were unable to either start or complete primary school. The program also helped them to get enrolled in community schools, named “mother school”, where Udaan graduates continued their higher study. Working together with nine formal mother schools of Krishannagar and Maharajgunj Municipalities of the Kapilvastu district, as well as with the girls and their parents, the Udaan II project focused on addressing the economic factors affecting girls’ families, and the harmful social norms acting as barriers to girls’ education. This helped to create an enabling and safe learning environment for girls, and provided opportunities for livelihood and vocational skill development. The Project was implemented over two years and 10 months (January 2018 to October 2020) by Care Nepal in Krishannagar Rural Municipality, Kapilvastu Municipality and Maharajgunj Rural Municipality of Kapilvastu district in cooperation with local partner Siddhartha Social Development Centre (SSDC).

The objective of the final evaluation study was to measure both the intended and unintended outcomes and impact of the Udaan II against the targeted results. A mixed methods approach was applied for this final study including qualitative and quantitative research, which entailed (i) focus group discussions, in-depth interview and key informant interviews for qualitative data collection; and (ii) secondary sources for quantitative data collection. The data generated through these methods are presented within tables, figures and by theme within this endline report.

Major Findings

Result 1: Poor and marginalized adolescent girls who have never been to school or who dropped out are empowered through an accelerated learning course in 10 Udaan schools.

Overall, the strategies, curricular and other activities implemented by Udaan II have resulted in (i) successful engagement of girls across categories (never attended school and dropped out) in learning activities; (ii) increased learning levels amongst girls with majority of the girls successfully transitioning into mother schools, and majority of the girls demonstrating sustained attendance in schools; and (iii) a small group of girls opting for income-generation pathways upon completing the accelerated learning course, due to them being over-age for enrolment into mother schools. Main findings outlined below.

1. The strategies adopted by the project to attract and engage poor and marginalised adolescent girls in education have proven to be effective for both types of girls who have never been to school and who dropped out.

2. Under Udaan II, 505 girls were enrolled, out of which 482 graduated from the accelerated learning program across grades 1 to 4. Out of the 482 graduates, 404 girls were enrolled into mother schools.

3. The Udaan II centers were understood to be resourceful, with sufficient teaching-learning materials, well-trained teachers and gender-sensitive facilities that were also safe and secure for adolescent girls.

4. The ASER learning test shows improved literacy and numeracy levels, achieved over 11 months learning intervention. Compared to the baseline study, two-third of the girls (66.75%) had improved their literacy level 1 in endline study. Likewise, the improvement in level 2, 3, 4 and 5 were 76.28%, 59.96%, 30.46% and 14.72% respectively. In numeracy, 52.44% had improved in level 1, 75.25% in level 2, 71.63% in level 3, 63.48% in level 4, 50.26% in level 5 and 20.3% in level 6.

5. The study further concludes that the condensed curriculum implemented by Udaan II was effective in increasing learning levels of both categories of girls (never attended school and dropped out), as is evidenced by the learning results (see 4).

6. Strategies adopted to facilitate school transition, in addition to the effective education curriculum, have also yielded positive results, with 88% of the girls (204 out of 232) from the first batch of girls enrolling into locally situated mother schools. The remaining 12% of girls were unable to enroll into the mother schools due to them being over age, and having inclination towards employment opportunities. Currently, majority of them are engaged in income-generating activities.

7. Out of 25 participants in the in-depth interview, 22 (88%) girls shared that they are regularly attending school, indicating that girls are interested in attending formal schools and that there is a strong probability of them being retained in schools.

8. Link between the Udaan II program and mother schools was strengthened as the Udaan II participants and school children collaborated in different project activities (e.g. Girls Groups and Udaan II friends) with each other, which helped reducing discrimination between them.

Result 2: Local authorities and the national government have implemented improved education policies and lobby for the inclusion of elements of the Udaan concept in the national curriculum.

Overall, there is no clear evidence of local authorities adopting or incorporating elements of Udaan II concept in the national curriculum. However, local authorities recognise significant support to girls around school enrolment, especially during COVID-19. Key findings summarised below.

9. The facilities provided by the project were of good standard compared to those of community mother schools. The project provided all the requirements such as bicycles to commute to the centre, books and stationaries, dresses, day meals, etc. Moreover, the project also provided soap, gloves and sanitizers during the COVID pandemic. As such, the local authorities appreciated these efforts, although the scale up of interventions of similar nature in other areas may be limited.

10. The local government supported the program initially during course design, and also attending meetings organized for conducting Balika Sabha (Girls’ Assembly). During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, the local government seemed to be less invested due to other competing priorities.

Result 3: An enabling environment is created to reduce socio-cultural barriers for girls through awareness campaigns, community mobilization and information sharing.

Overall, Udaan II has strengthened girls’ agencies by creating a more enabling environment where girls have increased life skills and mobility (to attend schools) and by enhancing familial support for girls’ education. Main findings outlined below.

11. The project empowered girls by developing their leadership skills with co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Some girls even fulfilled the responsibility of their teachers in the latter’s absence. Out of 25 girls that participated in the study, more than 50% of the girls rated themselves as having high leadership skills, nearly 25% said they have moderate leadership skills and around 20% stated that they have improvement in their leadership skills.

12. Parents were supportive towards girls joining the program and towards them continuing with their studies. The family members of the girls played a significant role in girls joining classes within Udaan II. Parents’ interest towards providing education to their girls demonstrably increased after the implementation of the Udaan II program.

13. In addition, the project has been able to change the attitude towards girls’ education positively by creating awareness of and reducing socio-cultural barriers through campaigns and community mobilization interventions.

14. Participating girls agreed that the mobility was increased from home to school (e.g. with the bicycles provided by the program), although the mobility was still limited from home to other places. The family members were aware of risk of different types of violence, in the girls going out without their parents or family members.

Result 4: Graduated Udaan girls and parents have better professional skills through vocational education training and access to improved livelihood opportunities.

Overall, employable skills have been provided to girls, actively breaking set stereotypes relating to livelihood pathways for girls. Key findings outlined below.

15. A credible link to learning and earning was established by emphasizing need for vocational training for improvement in lifestyle. Vocational training to the parents and Udaan II girls were found to support their livelihood.

16. In Nepalese society, mobile repairing and house wiring training are usually only conducted for boys. Udaan II project challenged this stereotype and offered vocational educational training on mobile repairing and house wiring to girls, which has the potential to act as a catalyst for changed gender roles (in relation to jobs and livelihoods) in the community. 25 girls had participated in the training and they shared that the vocational skills could be utilized for income generation.

Unexpected Result: Udaan Graduates’ struggle with the emerging Crisis: COVID-19 and education of girls

In the COVID-19 context, the project was faced with challenges as health risks as well as various forms of lockdowns impacted it. Therefore, additional support was provided on behalf of the project to address previously unanticipated challenges which delivered unexpected results, summarized below.

17. The COVID-19 situation forced girls to discontinue the class as schools were closed, which adversely affected their learning. Udaan II supported girls in this challenging situation by providing them with additional materials (textbooks and related reading materials) to continue learning activities at home. The girls assessed remained confident and said that they would go back to school after it reopens during/after COVID-19 pandemic.

18. Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MOEST) as well as province and local government have been providing distance-learning courses through television, radio, and internet in the COVID-19 pandemic. The study revealed that a majority of girls and their families were not aware about the existence of the government education program broadcasted from television, which may question the effectiveness of the government’s distance learning model for poor and marginalized communities. The poor and disadvantaged communities did not have access to radio, television and internet.