Skip to main content

Key Findings 

  • A key determinant of academic success is school attendance.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic caused a nearly 50% decline in school attendance after the schools reopened following the global lockdown.
  • Children who receive school meals attend an average of five more school days yearly.

Students who do not attend school regularly have a higher risk for academic challenges, including decreasing graduation rates and employment opportunities, while increasing mental or physical issues and the likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system. 

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, high-poverty communities saw an increase in chronic absenteeism from 25% to 69%. After the lockdown, school absences increased to 50% nationwide, with between 1% and 5% becoming severely absent. The total attendance rate for students dropped by 4% between 2021 and 2022, with those who had attended 90% falling to 21%. During the COVID-19 Shutdown, many students did not have access to online learning due to economic and personal factors.

Access to education is a right every child should have, and although progress has been made globally, millions of children are still not in school. Of the 787 million children in the world eligible to attend primary school, 58 million are not.   

Twelve million children in South Asia do not attend school, a UNESCO report indicates, a rise of 6 million since 2021.

In Bangladesh, 80% of primary school students attend school, with an average attendance of 60% for upper lower secondary and 51% for upper secondary. In the Philippines, 81% of children ages 5 to 18 are in school. The regions with the highest school attendance rates are the eastern Visayas, with an attendance rate of  85%; the Bicol region, with 84%; and the Mimaropa region, with 85%. The Zamboanga Peninsula has an attendance rate of 76%. 

Over 600 million children worldwide lack proficiency in mathematics and reading. Forty-five million schoolchildren suffer from malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients, which correlates with poor school performance. Providing free school meals has several benefits, including increased attendance, improved academics, and mental health. Statistics show that students who receive school meals learn faster and score higher in mathematics than students who do not receive meals.

Children require nourishing food to improve their intellectual ability and academic performance. Studies show that kindergarteners who received free universal meals at school performed better than their counterparts who did not. Those who did had a 1% higher attendance rate, and chronic absenteeism was lowered by more than 5%. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic, school feeding programs expanded and provided a crucial safety net for families in need of food support systems. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 161 out of 163 countries whose data were available had access to school meals. It is also estimated that food programs cover 48% of children worldwide. In 2022, 418 million children received school meals; meanwhile, before the pandemic in early 2020, 388 million children accessed school meals, translating to 30 million more children receiving school meals. 

Thrive transforms children’s lives with daily nutritious school meals coupled with education. Thrive meals improve school attendance rates. Globally, the average school attendance rate was about 87% in 2021, and with Thrive’s school meal program, it is 94%.

Over three years of daily school meals, Dawahon Integrated School in the remote island of Leyte, Philippines, which lacks water, electricity or vegetation, has seen a 33% increase in attendance for an average of 99%. A new school, Sama Bajau in Paranaque City, where the children typically do not go to school and work as street beggars to support their families, saw a 9% attendance jump in the first month, and more parents asked to enroll their children. 

In Bangladesh, school feedings raised enrollment by 14%, and attendance has increased by 1.3 days per year. Miskat, a 10-year-old who attends Biru Dalia school, said, “I love Thrive food, especially the hog plum and eggs. Thanks, Thrive, for making my tummy happy every day.” With Thrive’s meals, school attendance at Biru Dalia, located in a remote, climate-devastated region of northern Bangladesh, increased to 18%, for an average of 95%. 

There are several ways to combat absenteeism and improve school attendance; providing daily school meals is a key solution. Thrive’s daily school meals encourage children to attend classes and provide the nutrition needed to thrive.