Sri Lanka Promoting Autonomy for Literacy and Attentiveness Through Market Alliances (PALAM/A) Project

Sri Lankan school children in classroom

According to the latest report from UNICEF, Sri Lanka is among the top ten countries in the world with the highest number of malnourished children, leading to, among other things, higher school absenteeism and dropout rates.

In response to the nutrition and sanitation challenges in Sri Lankan primary schools, Save the Children is launching the Promoting Autonomy for Literacy and Attentiveness Through Market Alliances (PALAM/A) project.

PALAM/A will work to ensure that Sri Lanka’s school meal program is well targeted and responsive to children’s needs by strengthening government capacity and partnerships to generate contribution and accountability of local communities and program stakeholders.

PALAM/A Objectives

The two key objectives of the PALAM/A project are (a) to improve the literacy of school-age children and (b) to improve their nutritional status and diet diversity as well as decrease health-related absences. The PALAM/A project aims to improve literacy outcomes by enhancing student attentiveness and teacher capacity, as well as by providing opportunities to read with caregivers and after school.

Student attendance and attentiveness in school will increase based on enhanced food safety and nutrition practices, connections to supply partners, and school facilities that provide children with nutritious meals. The increased presence and attention in the classroom will also improve student's opportunities to learn.

By producing new literacy materials and providing teachers with training and recognition, PALAM/A’s goal is to improve the capacity of schools and teachers to teach early grade reading. Finally, the project will also build capacity among parents and caregivers on strategies to improve literacy and provide an opportunity for children to engage in after-school reading activities in Children’s Literacy Clubs.

Mixed-Methods Monitoring and Evaluation

Save the Children contracted AIR to conduct mixed-methods monitoring and evaluation for the PALAM/A program. AIR’s main objectives are to examine the relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability of the program while also exploring the fidelity of implementation, supporting the monitoring, evaluation, and learning of the program, and assessing the quality and equity of program outputs and outcomes.

Quantitative tools capture information on student's literacy and the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of teachers and school meal providers (SMPs) with respect to appropriate child health and nutrition practices, and regarding safe food preparation and storage practices. Quantitative methods provide objective measures of these outcomes, and statistical analysis of such data will help explain trends in these outcomes over the life of the PALAM/A project.

The project evaluation is similar to program monitoring, and thus we report descriptive statistics on all performance indicators and assess trends and changes over time. Assessment data is analyzed descriptively to identify values of student's literacy outcomes. Similarly, we descriptively assess health and nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and practices of teachers and SMPs.

The qualitative component of the evaluation identifies and analyzes the structural and contextual factors (economic, sociocultural, governance, etc.) that affect and help explain the relevance, effectiveness, equity, and sustainability of the PALAM/A program.

We interviewed school principals, SMPs, school development society members, and government officials at the district and local levels. The qualitative baseline phase focused on understanding the initial state (i.e., prior to program implementation) of school meal provision, attendance and literacy rates, school infrastructure (e.g., kitchen and WASH facilities), and nutrition and dietary knowledge and practices among students, teachers, and parents.