The study is commissioned by the WFP Country Office Bangladesh (WFP CO) and assesses the baseline situation during the period January 2021- March 2021 for the FY2020-2023 grant (henceforth referred to as FY20). The study was scheduled during the period August 2021– December 2021. This has been extended until February 2022 due to Covid-19 related restrictions.
The objectives of baseline study are to (i) establish benchmark values for all performance indicators included in the Performance Monitoring Plan (PMP); (ii) validate program design assumptions; (iii) provide program implementation analysis for the WFP on its role in establishing and implementing effective structures to support National School Feeding Policy. The findings of the study will be used as the basis for project’s ongoing monitoring activities to regularly measure activity outputs and performance indicators. The baseline will set values for comparison during the end-line evaluation.
The analysis of documents reveals that the program interventions are completely aligned with the GoB’s national and sectoral level policies and plans such as 8th Five-year plan, PEDP 4 and NPAN2.
The discussions with representatives WFP and DPE highlighted that an action plan for capacity building of MoPME and DPE officials based on the capacity needs assessment undertaken by WFP using Systems Approach to Better Education Results (SABER) for School Feeding has been prepared and is ready for implementation.
Creating community mobilization strategy, creating mother groups and building their capacities, developing SBCC materials on aspects such as (i) managing school meals; (ii) minimum nutrition requirements therefore, emerged as one of the priority areas for the program be immediate priority area.
Analysis of discussions with GoB officials at national and district level and SMC members highlight that local level stakeholders and governance structures are in place to transition from biscuits distribution to national school meals program. They would, however, require interventions that can orient them about their responsibilities and strengthen their capacities to undertake assigned responsibilities. The findings of the survey indicate that all the intervention and comparison schools have separate toilets for boys and girls and drinking water facilities within the school. The majority of the parents were able to highlight three benefits of education and the majority of the students were aware about the health and nutrition practices. No teacher in the intervention schools reported receiving any training on teaching and learning techniques.
Under the high-level capacity building component of the program (FY 20 grant), WFP with support from BIRTAN has conducted training on Safe Food Preparation and Basic Nutrition for the Cooks in GoB assisted school meals. The program is also providing technical assistance to Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), Ministry of Planning, GoB and DPE on creation and operationalization of school meal database at the field level.
IDIs with officials representing the education and agriculture department suggest that meetings of the Nutrition Coordination Committees are held regularly (monthly). They further expressed that these meetings promote multi-sectoral coordination by ensuring participation of various line departments and facilitating discourse on nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific interventions.
While national and local level structures are adequately placed to successfully transition to the national school meal program and implement FY 20 grant, streamlining of joint monitoring would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency.
There is clarity amongst the technical and implementing partners on their responsibilities during implementation of FY 2020 grant and support required in transitioning to and implementation of the national school meal program.
The current interventions under the school meal program and those proposed under the primary school meals project would be supported through the development fund (funded from combination of local and foreign resources) of GoB and not the revenue budget (primarily funded through local resources) . The funding through the development budget has so far ensured availability of adequate financial resources for implementation. However, from a sustainability perspective it is imperative that the allocation for the project is considered from the revenue budget of the Government. Funding through the revenue budget will ensure sustainable financing for the project.
Engagement with the community and adequate capacity of the local level stakeholders to implement the interventions are the main tenets to ensure sustainability. However, there is limited engagement of the project with the community. Providing technical assistance to MoPME in formulation of community mobilization strategy (based on needs assessment) and guideline for implementation is another priority area for WFP.
The program is completely aligned with the GoB’s national and sectoral level policies and plans. The program also addresses the needs of the Government with regard to transitioning to a fully- owned national school feeding program.
While there is a one-year delay, due to delay in approval of Development Project Proforma (DPP), in implementation of the primary school meals project there is no change in the willingness of the Government to move forward with its plan to implement the National School Meals Policy. Considering the delay in implementation project can provide technical assistance to MoPME in conducting a feasibility study to assess if there is a requirement to scale down the targets (considering that the project (GoB supported primary schools meals project) will end in FY 2025-26) or following an alternate approach to achieve targets.
The FY 2020-2023 MGD school feeding project design addresses the needs of the Government with regard to transition to fully nationally owned school feeding program. However, owing to closure of schools, implementation of project (through alternate implementation modalities) was limited to undertaking interventions related to literacy and biscuits distribution. The interventions under other components were pushed to year 2 of the project. The delay in undertaking preparatory activities has led to rescheduling of timelines for rolling out the school meal distribution (planned from second year). Review of semiannual progress reports for the period April 2021- October 2021, also highlights limited or no progress across indicators. Considering the delay in implementation of planned activities, the project team may consider conducting a feasibility assessment on achievement of targets.
Local level stakeholders such as parents, teachers and SMC members expressed their willingness to support MoPME in implementation of the primary school meals project. They are, however, constrained by lack of awareness about the interventions and their role in supporting implementation. Developing community mobilization and SBCC strategy emerged as one of the priority areas for the project to ensure that the transition from biscuit distribution to hot meals is adapted to the local context.
Supporting MoPME in revision of guidelines and SOPs based on recommendations of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) and designing scope of work for NSMA, its composition and plan of action for establishment emerged as other priority areas for the project.
The program results framework, performance indicators and progress monitoring reports do not focus on collecting and reporting gender disaggregated data. The project can consider revising the program results framework and include indicators to include gender empowerment and gender equality.
MoPME under the draft DPP has articulated roles and responsibilities during implementation for itself, other line ministries/departments and development partners such as WFP. This demonstrates GoBs preparedness to transition to the national school meals program.
GoB has provided financial commitment to support implementation of national school meals program. It has also adequately allocated funds to continue biscuits distribution in upazilas other those supported under FY 20 grant till the primary school meals project is operationalized. However, the commitment/ allocation is made under the development fund of GoB. In order to ensure sustainable financing, it is important that the allocation for the project is considered from the revenue budget of the Government. The project can therefore, undertake advocacy with the Government for considering financing through revenue budget and providing technical assistance to MoPME on conducting national cost analysis, cost beneficial analysis and identifying alternate funding mechanisms.
While WFP aims to encourage equal participation of women and girls in all project activities the program by design, does not have a specific focus on gender related issues. The review of program results framework, performance indicators and progress monitoring reports highlight lack of focus on collecting and reporting gender disaggregated data.
The local level stakeholders and governance structures were found to be ready to transition from biscuits distribution to the school meals program.
The national and local level structures are adequately placed to successfully transition to the national school meal program. However, streamlining joint monitoring visits would ensure timely review of program activities and course correction.
Considering that the baseline study highlights adequate availability of water and sanitation facilities in schools, the end term evaluation may consider assessing extent of improvement in adoption of hygiene practices by the target group. Assessment of this indicator will help measure the impact of health and hygiene education related interventions undertaken by the project.