Skateistan: Empowering Afghan girls through skateboards, enlivening children



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.