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Skateistan: Empowering Afghan girls through skateboards, enlivening children

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In a land where women are still battling the clout of Taliban while exercising their basic freedom, Skateistan, an international NGO which began as a grassroot movement, has decided to take up the cause of girl empowerment.

The Skateistan program in Afghanistan helps educate poor children through the street sport of skateboarding.

A novel initiative founded in 2007  by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, Skateistan uses skateboarding as a tool to lure children into schooling. He perceived the dearth of opportunities for young Afghans, particularly girls and working children and visualized skateboarding as a way to engage and build the community.

It was officially registered as an Afghan NGO in July 2009.

Skatiestan has three core programs in Afghanistan: Skate and Create, Back to School, Youth Leadership. Here is how they work:

Skate and Create

This program offers regular, structured weekly skateboarding instruction alongside an educational arts-based curriculum:

  • In the skate park, children of all backgrounds find a valuable platform for self-expression, creativity, goal setting and personal development.
  • In the classroom, students use fine arts and multimedia to explore geography, world cultures, history, human rights, environmental studies, hygiene, storytelling and more.
  • Lessons focus on giving youth tools to express themselves, think critically and solve problems in their local and global communities.
  • Special community events and international multimedia and art exchanges with peers around the globe expand the students’ personal worlds.

Back to School

Back-to-School is an accelerated learning program that prepares out of school youth to enroll for the first time, or re-enroll in the public school system.

  • During each four-month semester, experienced teachers guide students through an accelerated study of one grade of public school curriculum, preparing students for government standardized exams.
  • Upon completion of two to three semesters in the program, Skateistan enrolls the student into a government operated school, usually entering the 3rd or 4th grade.
  • A Student Support Officer follows up regularly with the graduate to ensure the new track is working well for the student and their family.

Youth Leadership

Dozens of youth who have become volunteers or staff with the organization, and now play an active role in developing programs for their peers.

  • Youth Leaders assist in skate sessions and classroom lessons, help to plan and manage events, and take part in special sports, arts, and multimedia workshops, which increase their skill sets.
  • The Youth Leadership initiative helps exceptional youth reach their potential to become positive role models for hundreds of students, and to initiate positive community projects of their own.

Apart from functioning in Afghanistan, Skateistan has also grown to run skateboarding and educational programming for children in other countries: In 2011 Skateistan Cambodia was founded in Phnom Penh, and in 2014 Skateistan South Africa was founded in Johannesburg.

While speaking on the kind of empowerment that kids require, Percovich said, “ A lot of foreign aid agencies here tell them what they should be doing or what they should know, but it’s incredibly important for the children to decide these things for themselves.”

“I want to give them some sort of control over their own destiny, he said.

Skateistan’s skateboarding and educational programs are free of charge and open to girls and boys of all socio-economic backgrounds between the ages of 5 and 18.

Over 40 per cent of Skateistan students are girls.

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Child Protection Schemes To Be Included In NCERT Books

NCERT books would now be containing child protection schemes in them.

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Children need protection from ongoing crimes.
A child's hand in an adult's hand. Pixabay

Child protection schemes like the POCSO Act and 24×7 children helpline numbers are now being published on the inside of the front cover of all the course books from class 6-12, according to Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry.

Published by the National Council Of Educational Research And Training (NCERT), the step is taken to equip the children with the information regarding the possible modes of protection and complaints.

In 2017, the WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had requested Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar and NCERT to popularise POCSO e-Box and Childline 1098 through NCERT publications, screening of educational films on child sexual abuse in the schools and having strict norms for employing the support staff.

Children must live in a safe environment.
Children need to seek protection.

After the step was taken, Gandhi thanked Javadekar and NCERT for implementing her suggestion. She added that the parents, guardians, and teachers should remain vigilant about the children as well as their behaviour and any suspected situation should be reported immediately on the Childline No 1098 and the POCSO e-Box.

Also Read: Rampant Sexual Harassment of Children & Women in Islam

According to the WCD ministry, through these course books, the information is expected to reach approximately 26 crores school students and more than 10 lakh teachers in around 15 lakh schools. IANS