Breaking barriers in South Africa through skateboarding

[Tim Moolman]

In the Central Business District of Johannesburg, girls, at-risk youth, and children from low-income backgrounds gather for three hours every day after school at Skateistan South Africa.

Bright orange pylons are scattered across the skate park as children eagerly line-up waiting for a chance to slide down one of many ramps. Beside the skate park, class is in session with students expressing themselves through creative arts.

It is here where inner-city youth, between the ages of 5-17, have an opportunity to learn how to skateboard and to explore new challenges, ideas, and to collaborate with other youth through an education program.

The combination of skateboarding and learning is at the heart of the skate school, an arts-based non-profit afterschool program where youth tackle social issues and overcome economic boundaries.

Using skate boarding as a bridge allows Skateistan to build trust, social capacity, and leaders within the community.

With over 300 local youth participants, the program focuses on the promotion of gender equality, social inclusion, health, and creative education in a safe space.

“We worry about our kids safety in general, what Skateistan is doing is taking these kids out of the streets.”

– Mother of Participant

Girls Skateboard Too

Gender equality is at the foundation of Skateistan. 40% of the students enrolled in the programs are girls. The afterschool program runs six days a week, but dedicates Tuesdays and Saturdays as “girls-only” with the hope of building the girls’ confidence in both the skate park and classroom.

The employment of female staff as educators also ensures mentorship opportunities for the young girl participants.

Since opening its doors in August 2016, the skate school has improved understanding and empathy surrounding gender issues among the local community.

Expanding Opportunities

Colourful walls, a mini computer lab, and a climbing wall are just a few features of Skateistan’s recent renovation project funded by the High Commission of Canada in South Africa. The project allowed Skateistan to expand by three floors and provide greater educational activities to the youth in their programs.

“The centre helps me because it provides more information in detail, for us to know the next step to take for our career.”

– Female Student

A more colourful, imaginative facility was designed in order to foster creativity in the space used for after school educational programs.

Additionally, upgraded office material including a furnished boardroom, office chairs and new laptops enabled full-time staff to more effectively run the administrative aspects of Skateistan.

Over 322 students and staff have benefitted from this new facility and Skateistan’s quality educational programs continue to empower young boys and girls in Johannesburg.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) provides funding for small projects developed and implemented by local organizations in developing countries around the world. Projects focus on: gender equality; the empowerment of women and girls; democratic governance; climate change and environmental sustainability, and security and stability. By responding directly to local needs, these modest contributions create a big impact in communities abroad.

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