Changing the Story: This is Nthabiseng

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Nthabiseng* is nine years old and currently lives in New Doornfontein. She was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Johannesburg when she was two years old. She lives with her Mom, Dad and sister, Ashley, who also attends programs at Skateistan.

Before she heard about Skateistan, Nthabiseng just used to sit in front of the TV at home. She says she used to get so bored and had no fun.

Nthabiseng found out about Skateistan through one of her only friends she had in the city. She was so excited because she found out that children can get help with homework and she really needed that.


When Nthabiseng first came to Skateistan in 2016, she was lonely and didn’t feel confident. She was struggling to focus on her homework from school and she had no one to help her with things she didn’t understand. When she looked at the skatepark, she was too afraid to try.

Nthabiseng takes part in the Skate and Create program, which combines skateboarding with creative, arts-based education. This is a perfect program for Nthabiseng, because it helps to build up her confidence in the skatepark as well as giving her creativity free reign. The group work that she has taken part in has helped her to form new friendships with children she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interact with outside of Skateistan. Now Nthabiseng says she has around 25 new friends.

Nthabiseng has enjoyed lessons on safe spaces and the natural environment. She took part in a class about soil and gardening, which included planting their own garden at the Skate School. There have also been chances for her to bake and she loved making cupcakes, which she then helped to distribute in the local community as part of the Skate School’s Mandela Day celebrations.

Her favourite lesson so far was called ‘From Flip Flips to Kickflips’ and involved students making their own sandals. This series of lessons was designed by Tin, our Programs Officer in Phnom Penh, who trained our South Africa Educators on how to run it during a staff exchange. The footwear lesson was the first time all four Skateistan Skate Schools ran the same lesson at the same time and it was really popular with our students in all locations.

"First we learned about the history of shoes and why they're important for protecting our feet. Then we learned how to make our own shoes. I didn't think I could ever make my own shoes that I can actually wear. My favorite part of the lesson was when the Educators were tracing our feet to measure the size - it was so ticklish! When I was finished, I wanted everyone to see the shoes that I had made."

As well as in the classroom, Nthabiseng has been making great progress in the skatepark.

"Skateboarding taught me a new skill and a good thing to do in life. It taught me that if you get it wrong or fall, you must still get up and try again."

With the help of her Educators, Nthabiseng has improved hugely in the skatepark and was the first girl to drop in on the big ramp.

As well as Skate and Create, Nthabiseng now also takes part in the Dropping In program, which provides extra sessions where students can explore their own interests, use the library and get help with homework. She especially enjoys life skills lessons which are held on Saturday mornings because they teach her about being safe in the streets and eating healthily. She is always learning new things and she loves her Educators and the things they teach her.

"I feel like I can talk to the teachers here if I have any problems and they will help me."

From being bored at home in front of the TV, Nthabiseng is now constantly learning, exploring and improving. Her mother has seen a real change in her daughter:

"When she comes home after being at Skateistan she will always talk about what she did that day. She loves going there. She always tells me how she is getting better at skating and the crafts they do. She loves telling me about the exciting trips they go on."

Skateistan has brought many changes to Nthabiseng’s life. She is a confident skater, an eager participant in her classes and is focused on self-improvement. She has a wide circle of friends and knows that there are adults around her who will support her as she grows up.

"I feel happy that new people that come here can make friends easily. It is very friendly here and we feel happy."

For children growing up in unstable environments, the future can be a difficult concept. Our creative education programs spark ideas about how the world could be different and give children a chance to see how they can play a role in creating a better future for themselves and their communities. You can help to change their stories.

For their future. Donate today.

*Nthabiseng’s name has been changed in accordance with Skateistan’s Child Protection Policy.