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Fatima (12) is a student at Skateistan in Mazar-e-Sharif and she is deaf. Life can be challenging for deaf children anywhere in the world but it’s especially hard for children in places where medical care is not easily accessible and educational institutions are not able to make special arrangements to include deaf children. Fatima sometimes finds it hard to express her feelings and when she has a problem, it is hard to tell someone as the only people who can understand her are those who can sign.
“Before I joined Skateistan I was just playing with my friends but we didn’t have chance to do sports.”
Fatima takes part in programs run by The Swedish Committee in Afghanistan, an organization which partners with Skateistan. Her teachers there started to bring Fatima and her friends to Skate and Create classes each Thursday.
At first, she was very withdrawn and she was struggling with her physical movement. But every Thursday she came to Skateistan for skateboarding with her teachers and her friends and gradually her confidence grew. Skateistan Educators have been learning sign language so they can communicate better with our deaf students — it’s a learning experience for everybody that allows more students to be included.
Fatima said: “The first time I stood on a skateboard was scary. But I felt confident that I could learn it. The teachers in Skateistan are very kind and they never shout at us.”
Now Fatima is doing much better. She has made new friends at Skateistan and her confidence and ability have increased. Most importantly, Fatima is now having fun in a space where she is understood and accepted.
“Skateistan is a place that I can learn lots of different things than what I learn at home and school. We can do any sport that we like in Skateistan like football, skating and active games. I am really waiting all week until Thursday to come to Skateistan.”
Nasir is one of Fatima’s teachers from the Swedish Committee and said: “Before coming to Skateistan Fatima had some physical movement problems, but since she has been coming to Skateistan and doing sport, her problems have decreased. Now she is happier than in the past. Skateistan is the only place that these deaf students have communication with other people outside of the deaf community. When they are here they don’t feel like they’re disabled, they think that the community can accept them and they can live like everyone else.”
Fatima was interviewed by Noorzai and Mubaraka.