At Skateistan, we believe that every child has the right to a quality education and that all children should have spaces where they feel safe, where they can have fun and be themselves. Our Skate Schools offer programs for all children, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, ability or economic situation. Join our Skateboarding is for Everybody campaign and help us to raise $150,000 by the end of 2018 so we can ensure no child is left behind.
Thandiswa* is 11 years old and lives in New Doornfontein, Johannesburg. She has been living in the city with her mother all her life.
Living in the city can be tough, especially for young girls and Thandiswa’s mother is always worried about her daughter. She has warned her about the dangers of walking in the streets at night and speaks to her about kidnappings.
There’s a real shortage of safe spaces in the city for girls like Thandiswa, and the few sports facilities there are, are often aimed only at boys. Thandiswa would spend her days playing in the streets with her friends, but as soon as the sun would go down, she would run back home to the safety of her flat.
Skateistan was introduced to the community of New Doornfontein in 2016 with programs that include skateboarding and creative arts for boys and girls just like Thandiswa. The program is provides a safe space for kids to learn and play and gives parents welcome relief from worrying about their children’s safety and what they are getting up to during the day. But when the Skate School first opened, Thandiswa assumed it wasn’t for her:
“When I first heard about Skateistan, I thought it was a boys’ thing.”
Staff from the Skate School make a special effort to encourage girls to attend, through outreach sessions, special events, employing female educators and role models and running girls-only sessions. This was really important for Thandiswa:
“I like that for the girls-only days, we have activities that other kids don’t do.”
Thandiswa attends the Skate and Create program, which combines skateboarding with creative education on a wide range of topics.
“I enjoy that I learn new things like skating and I also learn new things that I don’t learn about at school…like the solar system and water evaporation…”
Skate and Create Educator, Wendy, says that Thandiswa is a diligent student and very well behaved. “She loves taking charge and also works well in all her create activities…she really loves performance art.” Wendy adds, “Thandiswa used to be distant and quiet but now she actively participates in classes and voices her opinions.”
In the skatepark, educators mention that she is one of the most consistent students at Skateistan. Daniel, one of the skate park instructors says,
“She has been with us since we opened in 2016. When she first started she was a little shy, and she’s grown into a confident girl who takes part in all activities.”
Skateboarding has really changed Thandiswa and taught her to believe in herself.
“I’ve fallen a lot. I felt scared, but by repeating the same thing, I can get better at it.”
In this way, skateboarding can teach children lessons that are useful for their whole lives — resilience, determination and continuous improvement.
Skateistan’s programs also offer an opportunity for students to come in and find a quiet space where they can do their homework, join a reading club or use the computers to research homework assignments. This has changed Thandiswa’s attitude towards certain subjects at school.
“I also bring my homework here…I was bad in Maths but since I came to the skatepark, I started being good.”
Thandiswa was interviewed by Mbali.