Skateistan Skate Schools Respond To Covid-19

Classes are still temporarily suspended at our Skate Schools due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus, in accordance with advice from governments in all of the locations of our Skate Schools around the world. Each Skate School has adapted to a new reality over the last few weeks. 

Our teams around the world have been extremely flexible and innovative about adapting our programs to a new reality over the past several weeks. Each location's adaptations look a little different but they all have in common a focus on what our students and their families need right now. Skateistan's leadership teams at the Skate Schools are all working on plans for reopening safely. In the meantime, you can read about how each of our Skate School locations adapted their programs during this time, some of their challenges and major learnings from the situation. 

We caught up with Skateistan’s Program Officers in each of our Skate School locations to hear how they’ve adapted programs during coronavirus. 

Skateistan’s Programs Officer in Mazar-e-Sharif, Noorzai, told us that the situation in Mazar is complicated, as some people are following the distancing rules and but others are not. When Afghanistan’s lockdown measures were introduced mid-March, people followed the guidelines from the Ministry of Public Health for about one week. After this, some people returned to normal, desperate to make up for economic losses and to provide for their families in the time period that followed. 

Student homework.
“Many families in the community are poor and rely on the ability to sell daily items in markets, it is not as easy to follow the distancing rules and abide by all gathering bans.”
Noorzai, Mazar-e-Sharif

To connect with students, Skateistan staff and educators are doing what they can to focus on direct needs of students. If families have access to the internet and a smartphone, educators are sending homework via WhatsApp to keep students engaged in all of our Skate School locations around the world. 

Some of the projects have included illustrations of proper hygiene during Covid-19, and illustrations of Skateistan flags and skateboard designs. In Johannesburg, educators assigned homework over WhatsApp to make items out of materials lying around their homes. They created flower pots, pencil holders, and skateboard deck designs out of recycled paper.

Homework from students in Johannesburg.

The Covid-19 realities are different in South Africa, and we reached out to the Programs Officer at Skateistan South Africa, Vuyo to hear a little more about the situation in Johannesburg. 

“The only way to remain in contact with students right now is through WhatsApp, and Zoom for our older students in ‘This Girl Can’ (Youth Leadership) program where they meet once a month.” - Vuyo

In terms of Covid-19 and the situation around the Skateistan neighborhood, some people are obeying mask-wearing and distancing regulations, and some are not. In the more vulnerable parts of the neighborhood there may be a line of up to 200 people waiting to receive social assistance grants on any given day, making it very difficult to distance from others. 

In Johannesburg, it is difficult to reach all Skateistan students due to a lack of access to the internet. This is a reality for more than half of Skateistan Johannesburg students, creating a barrier to access Skateistan activities and instructions from educators. For the students that are able to access the internet, some then lack the resources to be able to complete homework assignments, such as pencil crayons, office supplies and writing material. When possible, students connected to the WhatsApp group complete assigned tasks from their educators, which they really enjoy. 

Flower pot owl.
Recycled flower pot.

In Phnom Penh, staff are calling students every week to make sure they and their families are receiving adequate information about Covid-19, and supplying resources and assistance when possible. After adjusting to the new realities of Covid-19 for Skateistan in Phnom Penh, educators created a system to assist students that lack the resources to complete homework assignments at home. Following adequate social distancing guidelines, students can come pick up homework activities and resources at the Skate School. When they complete their work, they can return it back to educators and receive new tasks, such as coloring pictures, using crayons, doing math activities and reading storybooks.  

Kubra, General Manager in Kabul, said that many people were not following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks, and that a lot of our  students’ families rely on work opportunities as daily wage earners. Although they want to abide by the rules and stay home, they rely on daily income to be able to feed and support their families. Similarly, educators can only reach students that have access to the internet and a smartphone, or access to a phone in their home. Many students and their families live in IDP camps, and their lack of income is a major barrier to access them and provide learning opportunities while the Skate School is closed. 

Challenges overall 

A lot of the challenges to connect with students in all of our Skate School locations are due to the fact that we’re working with vulnerable children in extreme circumstances. To reach our students during this time, we've held weekly remote programs meetings with students from all Skate Schools and international staff, to share mental health skills, best resources, challenges, and plans. Educators are running Skate and Create classes over WhatsApp in South Africa, and over the phone in Afghanistan and Cambodia. Our students are also helping their families around the house more than usual and taking on new roles like baking and gardening. 

Students helping their parents around the house.

Our programs teams around the world are antsy to reopen to be able to meet the needs of our students. In order to reopen our Skate School locations safely, we must take advice from the local governments in each location who decide when it will be safe to do so. At each of the Skate Schools, we will stick to strict hygiene standards, coordinate lesson plans and a timetable that ensure we can get our most vulnerable and hardest to reach students caught up with what they’ve missed over the last several weeks. 

Our most vulnerable students, some of whom we’re not  able to keep in contact with, will continue to face challenging circumstances upon their return back to Skateistan programs. When they come back, support will be focused on their immediate needs, such as mental health support, and allotted extra time in their program schedule to talk to each other and their educators about their experiences during Covid-19 closures. We are beyond excited for our students to come back to the Skate Schools and learn alongside peers and mentors in the skatepark as well as the classroom, watch this space for updates for when that will be! 

If you have the means, please consider supporting Skateistan during this time as we work to reach our most vulnerable students around the world. To stay up to date on all things Skateistan, make sure you’ve subscribed to our monthly newsletter here