The government has undertaken a mega project to provide daily school meals for government primary school students to increase attendance and reduce dropouts.
The school feeding programme project involving Tk 17,290.22 crore will be placed at the next Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting.
The main objective of the project is to contribute to the education, nutrition, health and social security of all primary school students by 2030 by bringing them under the School Meal programme in phases.
It is expected to reduce dropout rates of government primary school students and increase admissions and attendance by providing safe and nutritious food.
An official of the planning commission said a meeting of the Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) was held on July 14 last year after receiving the project proposal.
The Development Project Proposal (DPP) has been restructured by implementing the recommendations given at the meeting, he mentioned.
It will now be presented at the next Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting, he said adding that, if approved, the project will be implemented by the Department of Primary Education from this year to June 2026.
Dr Shamsul Alam, member of the General Economics Department of the Planning Commission (Senior Secretary), said the Eighth Five-Year Plan mentions bringing all government primary schools under school meals by 2023 in phases to reduce the dropout rate in primary schools, improve the quality of education and increase the attendance rate of students in classrooms.
He mentioned, “The Perspective Plan 2021-2041 focuses on improving the quality of education and reducing dropout rates.”
Moshammat Nasima Begum, Member (Secretary) of the Planning Commission's Socio-Economic Infrastructure Department, who is in charge of the project, said, “The proposed project will play an important role in meeting the physical nutrition needs of the students of the schools.”
Student admission and attendance will be ensured 100 percent and the dropout rate will also decrease significantly, she mentioned.
This will play a vital role in increasing the overall rate and quality of education and in building an educated and healthy nation, she added.
According to sources, Bangladesh has achieved significant success in eliminating malnutrition and ensuring food security.
In this sector, various effective steps have been taken to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
Even then, there is a growing problem of malnutrition among students in the country. But malnutrition is a big challenge in the development of the child, especially in education.
The World Food Programme (WFP) first started a school feeding programme in 2001 in primary schools in Bangladesh.
With the positive results of this programme, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education through the Department of Primary Education undertook a project titled School Feeding in Poverty Affected Areas from July 2010 to June 2014 for implementation in selected 86 upazilas of 23 districts in six divisions of the country.
The next time the project was revised three times.
The latest project worth Tk 4,991.97 crore to provide nutritious biscuits daily to 31.89 lakh students in 104 upazilas selected in 39 districts of eight divisions of the country was approved by ECNEC on 16 July 2017 (with Third Amendment).
The project was later extended to June 2021 without any increase in cost.
In this project, students have met 67 percent of their daily nutritional needs including 338 kcal of food per day.
Moreover, equitable admission in primary schools has increased at a significant rate. The overall enrollment rate has increased from 84.80 percent in 2010 to 97.74 percent in 2019.