“Skateboarding creates a passion that teaches the person to get up and try again. These qualities can then be applied in life, in education, work and hardship.” - Madras Apse
Skateistan is an award-winning international non-profit organisation that provides programs combining skateboarding and education to children and youth aged 5-17 in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa.
Through the hook of skateboarding they engage children, especially girls and children from low income backgrounds, and provide them with access to safe spaces and education. Skateistan's innovative programs teach children valuable life skills that go beyond the skatepark and the classroom. Their core programs aim to keep children and youth involved in the Skateistan community for the long term. As students get older, they become role models to the younger children and the wider community.
The animation below, created by Berlin-based illustrator Maria Giemza and animator Dominik Grejc, tells the story of an Afghan girl empowered through skateboarding and education. Based on the real life of a Skateistan student in Kabul, Afghanistan, the animation showcases the impact Skateistan's programs have on the lives of children and how the charity works to empower children and youth around the world.
Over 1,800 children and youth are part of the programs worldwide. Skateistan believes that positive social change happens when children are educated on how to take care of themselves and their community.
Skateistan addresses gender inequality by including as many girls as possible in their programs. Over 50% of registered students are female, and Afghanistan has the highest percentage of female skateboarders in the world. Skateistan offer girls-only sessions at all of their Skate Schools worldwide.
Educational and recreational services for youth are often compromised in places of long-term conflict and concentrated poverty. Yet, when millions of youth miss out on experiences of playing and learning, they lose opportunities to develop essential life skills, to imagine a new world for themselves, to evolve into leaders, and to develop effective solutions for their communities.
Skateboarding is accessible to children with physical and cognitive disabilities as it can be practiced in some form by virtually anyone. The ability to take part in sport and creative activities builds students' confidence, self-esteem, and provides a valuable platform for self-expression.
For children of migration backgrounds there are many obstacles to accessing education. Skateistan works with internally displaced youth, nomadic communities, economic migrants and refugees.
How do youth benefit from skateboarding?
Skateistan’s model is founded on the belief that skateboarding is a great equaliser. With a safe space and staff trained in delivering quality programs, we develop community leaders and skateboarders who know how to safely fail and persevere through adversity. This new generation of role models is equipped to tackle complex problems in their own lives as well as in their local and global communities.
What are the benefits of children being part of Skateistan’s programs?
At Skateistan, children find a fun, safe community where they can play and learn, free from discrimination and violence. Within a diverse peer group they come to understand themselves as equal with others, while learning new skills and building friendships. As members of a thriving learning community, youth develop key life skills and increase their confidence. Youth set goals, stay in school, and become involved in civic engagement activities. Many become role models for their peers in the skatepark and classes. At 18, youth graduate from Skateistan and from high school with an expanded notion of community, and the tools to seek out further education and employment. Some become Skateistan volunteers and staff, and all join a global community of active, engaged citizens - promoting such values as equality, education, and inclusion.
Was the community involved during construction of the skate schools?
Yes. Involving the local community was important for consent; we put in the effort to operate in a culturally-sensitive and appropriate manner. It is common for local government, youth, parents, and community groups to work together to build safe, supervised, and youth-friendly facilities. Watch how the Skate School was made in Johannesburg.
Can girls participate?
More than 50% of students are girls! Getting girls on a skateboard has been a priority since Skateistan's beginning. However, we acknowledge that there are many obstacles to teaching girls — and that is why we hold the support of the parents, local community and government in such high regard. Half of our students are female, giving Afghanistan the highest rate of female participation in skateboarding in the world. They are taught on separate days at the park, by an all-female staff. In South Africa and Cambodia, Skateistan hopes to address the gender gap through their girls-only sessions. We run 14 of these girls-only sessions each week around the world.
Can people with disabilities participate?
Yes. A focus of ours is working with youth living with a disability. Students can take part in our Skate and Create program and we run Outreach sessions with partner organisations. Skateboarding is accessible to children with physical disabilities, as it can be practiced in some form by virtually anyone. The ability to take part in sport and creative activities builds students confidence, self-esteem, and provides a valuable platform for self-expression.
Are the students safe?
The Skate Schools are supervised and secure private facilities that are built and run with community consent. We are in regular communication with local safety organizations, as well as with government and local community leaders, so that we receive regular security updates and conduct activities safely. When skating all students must wear a helmet and safety pads.
Are the programs free for children?
Yes, this is essential, as most participants of Skateistan cannot afford to pay for lessons. There are absolutely no costs incurred by students for any activities, for example, all materials needed in the skatepark or the classroom are provided to students by Skateistan. Additionally, we arrange transport for girls in Afghanistan to make it easier and safer for them to attend.