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Community schools and social capital formation : a case study of community schools in Assiut, Egypt El Sherif, Ghada

Abstract

In the majority of developing countries access to schools in rural areas is very limited, and when they are available, conventional schools do not address the needs of rural communities. Often traditions prevent girls from attending school and the rural lifestyle is not compatible with the rigid school schedule and curriculum offered. Consequently, many rural communities reject government schools as part of their social institution. The result is that these communities have limited access to education and cannot fully utilise the benefits that would otherwise arise, including the formation and expansion of social networks, knowledge, values and social cohesion (social capital), which may lead to greater local development. This research employs a case study of community schools in rural communities in Assiut, Egypt to address the question of whether these types of schools are more likely to lead to greater social capital formation in rural communities. Utilising participatory observation, formal and informal interviews, and literature reviews, the research looks at the role community schools play in creating better quality relationships and networks in communities that lead to an improved capacity to build and participate in civil society. The research shows that community schools fill the void left by conventional government schools and allow a greater arena for public participation. The process involved in establishing community schools results in more active participation from the community as a whole. Volunteerism increases, school committees are established that encourage community members to take on a managerial role and the quality of relationships and networks in the community increases. As a result, communities feel more empowered to collaborate on other local development initiatives.

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