Finding a Way Forward: Conceptualizing Sustainability in Afghanistan's Community-Based Schools
Community-based educational (CBE) models have gained recognition across diverse contexts for closing access gaps, leveraging local assets, and shaping costeffective and culturally relevant educational opportunities in marginalized communities. In protracted conflict contexts such as Afghanistan, CBE compensates for weak state capacity by cultivating community engagement and support. This article considers the impact of CBE in the voices of Afghanistan’s educational and community stakeholders, gained through interviews and observations with parents, teachers, students, educational officers, and school shuras (councils) across eight communities in two provinces. Against a backdrop of continued insecurity, resource shortages, and uncertain projections for future government and NGO support, conceptions of sustainability emerge as salient but poorly defined, and as lacking common understanding among stakeholders about the purposes and long-term prospects of CBE. We argue that the success of CBE models depends on how various actors define sustainability and what it is the model is seeking to sustain. The study underscores three dimensions of sustainability: (1) self-reported changed attitudes toward education, (2) decisions about student transitions from community to government schools, and (3) emergent indicators of community ownership over CBE. Across these measures of sustainable attitudes, actions, and community arrangements, quality education is positioned as a mechanism for long-term community commitment. However, increased community interest and capacity to sustain CBE is at odds with the current policy approach, which anticipates the eventual handover of all community-based schools to the government.
The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below: