How Skating is Providing a Route to Education For Girls.
An exclusive editorial piece for our Give Her Five campaign.
Despite gender equality making headlines and the gender gap being addressed worldwide, it’s still far from being closed. About one third of countries in developing regions still need to achieve gender parity in primary education, and marrying young also affects girls’ education — globally nearly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year (UN Sustainable Development Goals 2016). Skateistan has managed to find a way for girls living in places of long-term conflict and poverty to break this cycle and access education.
Back in 2007, when the charity first began in Kabul Afghanistan, the founder Oliver Percovich realised there were no rules preventing girls from skateboarding. He used the loophole to connect skateboarding to education so that girls could not only have the right to play sport but to go to school. It was a really powerful connection to make. Fast forward to 2016 and Skateistan provides programs to over 1600 youth each week and 800 of them are girls.
At their Skate Schools in Afghanistan, Skateistan runs a program called Back-to-School, an accelerated learning program aimed at out-of-school and street-working children in order to enrol them in public school. The Ministry of Education approves it and so far it has resulted in almost 300 children going to primary school. This year, 5 girls part of the program were awarded full scholarships to a local private school in Kabul, which shows the success and impact the program is having. Joining the Back-to-School program is often the first and only chance girls have to access education. It gives them the opportunity to break the cycle and consider an alternative future.
“I want to become a teacher but it’s kind of our tradition that a woman will not become a doctor or another useful member of the community because men don’t let us study. But I will try my best.” says a female student.
Former Back-To-School student, Freshta*, is now in grade 7 at public school. She still attends Skateistan as part of their Skate and Create program (which combines skateboarding and educational arts). She is also a class representative for the Skateistan Student Council. She is a great example of how the Back-To-School program can open the door to education and a bright future!
“Since I joined Skateistan I have learned a lot and my skills are growing. I feel like I will continue learning more in the future, because starting each day with Skateistan is fun for me, and learning through fun is more effective in life.” she says.
At Skateistan’s newest Skate School, which opened in August in Johannesburg, Back-to-School students have access to computers and workshops in a classroom that looks out over the skatepark. A major focus of the Skate School is providing a much-needed safe space for the youth there, in particular girls. The kids already attend school during the day, so the Back-to-School program is an after school offering for older students aged around 12–17. It aims to give them the focus and mentoring to make big life choices and feel supported to do so. “I feel more privileged because now we’re able to research on things we didn’t know about.” says a female student there. “The Dropping-in center helps me because it provides more information in detail, for us to know the next step to take for our career.”
Skateistan’s other impactful program is Skate and Create. It is their biggest worldwide. The program combines skateboarding and educational arts — through which youth get to play sports and gain valuable life skills. It is an education both in the classroom and in the skatepark. Girls find an outlet to express themselves, think critically and solve problems in their local and global communities. Malis*, a Skate and Create student in Cambodia explains; “all of the things I learned with Skateistan are completely different from public or private school. So I can use all of the skills that I learn to find a good job or good school in the future.”
Skateboarding is an education itself. In the skatepark, girls from different backgrounds are able to form strong friendships and valuable life skills. Skateistan students are the most eager students to learn. Skateboarding is fun, the community is supportive and all together it can mean a brighter future for the youth involved. They know this from watching the older students who have grown up through the programs and gone onto to attend school, University or forge careers. What they learn at Skateistan over the year or years can impact their future, their communities and ultimately the world.
Skateistan believes girls have an equal right to access education and go to school. From December 5th, Skateistan is asking the public to Give Her Five by donating $5 in a bid to raise $100,000 by December 31st! Support Skateistan’s educational programs by donating today.