Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development Assists Project in Benin

ND Students In South Africa

When Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced the establishment the University’s Keough School of Global Affairs, he said that a crucial aim of the new institution would be to “devote itself to the advancement of integral human development—a holistic model for human flourishing articulated in Catholic social thought by popes from Paul VI to Francis.”

An integral component of the Keough School, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) draws on experts across multiple disciplines from the most distinguished teaching and research faculty of the University and provides them with a staff of experienced international development professionals, administrators, and researchers to promote development and human dignity worldwide.

NDIGD recently assisted in a four-year development project undertaken by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Benin, in the Alibori and Borgou Departments of that country’s West African country’s northeast region. The CRS Food for Education project aims to improve the quality of education and the general learning environment for more than 38,000 primary school-aged children attending 141 schools there, specifically targeting their literacy levels, attentiveness, and attendance.

With support from the United States Department of Agriculture, the CRS program provided lunch and take-home meals for the participating students, training and classroom supplies for teachers and school administrators, and instruction and counseling for school parents.

NDIGD provided a baseline study for the project, measuring its progress at its conclusion. The study included an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) conducted to test students’ abilities in first and second grades; surveys of the school districts; focus group interviews; food security surveys to determine dietary deficiencies within communities, and classroom observations to assess students’ attention levels.

According to NDIGD’s monitoring and evaluation director, Juan Carlos Guzman, who worked closely with CRS on the project, “This baseline study provides the information necessary to understand not only the students’ current situation in the target improvement communities, but also collects similar information from comparison schools in two neighboring communities. This will allow CRS to determine the students’ progress as a result of program activities in target schools by measuring their progress against the baseline. We will also be able to assess the impact of the program by comparing student progress to that in comparison schools that have not received the intervention.”

The Benin Food for Education Project will continue through 2018. NDIGD will conduct a mid-term assessment and a final assessment at the project’s conclusion.