“Skateistan’s not just about skating. It’s about giving people life skills and hope for their future,” says Tony Hawk, a professional skateboarder and global Skateistan Ambassador.
Skateistan is an international non-governmental organisation that uniquely uses skateboarding as a tool for empowerment. It was launched in May 2007 in Kabul Afghanistan where girls are not allowed to ride bicycles but are allowed to ride skateboards.
This campaign assists vulnerable youth between the ages of five and 17 from a range of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds by using skateboarding as a ‘hook’ to engage children in underprivileged areas and empower them through education programmes.
South African youth face many of the same challenges as young people in Afghanistan and Cambodia including social inequality, youth unemployment, gender discrimination, poverty, lack of quality education, and social tensions, all of which are issues which Skateistan’s programmes aim to address.
Construction is already well on its way for Skateistan South Africa’s first Skate School in the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg, the first on the continent, after nearly two years of planning.
The Johannesburg Skate School, which is scheduled to be open in August and consists of a building constructed using reclaimed shipping containers as classrooms and study areas, a world-class 500m2 skate park, an outdoor educational space and office space for the NGO to operate from.
Leading interior building solutions group, Saint-Gobain Gyproc, a well-known innovative building materials, systems and solutions company, is sponsoring top quality walls and ceilings for the classrooms and offices.
Apart from attributes related to efficiency and sustainability, Saint-Gobain believes that its building materials can create an environment that is safer, more comfortable, healthier and generally more attractive than conventional building materials.
Improved and more comfortable learning spaces contribute to better learning environments, whereby learners and teachers can perform optimally. Saint-Gobain has created a better learning environment at Skateistan South Africa as follows:
- Thermal comfort: Comfortable temperature, warm in winter and cool in summer
- Acoustic comfort: Noise reduction and improved acoustics
- Visual comfort: Good light and reduced glare, improves visibility and looks good
- Health: Materials improve air quality, which means less illness and improved wellbeing
Through this pioneering project, Saint-Gobain aims to demonstrate to other schools and educational facilities the immense difference that can be made by using superior building materials, in conjunction with builders, designers and architects, and how this combination can create better functioning, more comfortable and more productive environments that allow learners and teachers to achieve their full potential.
This is Skateistan’s fourth international project with two Skate Schools already in Afghanistan and one in Cambodia. Skateistan South Africa has been made possibly through a partnership with the City of Johannesburg and funding from the Danish Embassy in Pretoria, the Comic Relief Foundation, the Tony Hawk Foundation and The Sk8room. Maboneng’s urban regeneration company, Propertuity, has provided the land for the Skate School via a 20-year rent-free lease. Big Box Containers, a company that customises shipping containers and converts them for various uses, is supplying the boxes, as well as various other donors involved including Saint-Gobain.