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The development of community-based education (CBE) in Afghanistan was a key element of the push for expanded access, increasing service provision in rural areas and addressing concerns about safety and cultural barriers, particularly for girls. Initially regarded as a project-led approach, CBE has evolved into a key part of the National Education Strategic Plan 2017-21, with robust ownership at community level. A tangible example of bottom-up community engagement in CBE is the large volume of community contributions (in-kind and monetary), amounting to 1.6GBP over a period of three years, to the classes covered under the initiative discussed in this panel. Bottom-up engagement is also visible through the mobilization of communities to advocate with education officials for the continuation and expansion of CBE.
This panel will discuss the progressive development of a comprehensive approach to community-based education under an initiative currently being implemented (2013-2021) across Afghanistan. Findings will be used to reflect on the emerging opportunities and challenges of operating a community-based system in an unstable context, while supporting the development of a national education system.
Building upon an in-depth study of the underlying causes of exclusion from education, this initiative brought together a network of partners to work with communities on the development of an increasingly sustainable model that caters specifically to the needs of marginalized girls, particularly adolescents living in rural and remote areas where services are not available and security conditions remain unstable. This expanded model is formed by three pillars: (1) a participatory, equitable governance structure at community level, following up on school management, quality standards, student and teacher attendance; (2) community advocates at all levels (religious leaders, parents, teachers, students) promoting shifts in social norms that exclude girls and children from marginalized groups from enrolling, attending and succeeding in school; and (3) strengthened linkages between community-based education and central systems for support on quality standards and opportunities for transition post-completion. Considering an “education plus” approach, this model looks beyond simple delivery, fostering local capacity for leadership and for dialogue between local and central systems. Developed by local specialists jointly with communities, this integrated model operates within the local culture and leverages local resources and capacity to improve education outcomes in a sustainable manner.
Initial results from its implementation indicate that girls participating in community-based education have surpassed a target of 0.2 standard deviation improvement in literacy scores by over 22 percentage points. In the case of numeracy, participating girls have surpassed the 0.2SD target by over 10 percentage points. The integrated model empowered community groups (shuras) managing classes to take action against key underlying causes of poor attendance, learning and dropout, such as addressing harassment and violence against girls, reinforcing positive classroom management and working with parents to address cases of early marriage. Cases of dropout are increasingly being followed up by shuras, and the retention rate is extremely high (98%), while high dropout rates were observed in government schools (up to 24%/ year).
Based on these results and ongoing research, this initiative is further refining the model by fostering increased transition into lower secondary through expanded duration of CBE, and working with community groups to address issues affecting girls’ retention in mid-and upper adolescence. The revised model incorporates a multi-layered approach to gender, developing girls’ personal agency, fostering supportive relationships and working with communities to reinforce transformative gender practices that extend beyond the classroom. Local experiences are being leveraged to inform the development of a national CBE policy and advocate for greater institutionalization of CBE into the national education system. The project also looks towards sustainability through exploring viable means of community based handover of CBE classes.