Student Profile: Introducing... is a series where we feature a student at one of our Skate Schools to give you a chance to get to know them better.
In a country where women often face hostility when fighting for their rights, speaking out can be challenging, even intimidating...but this is something Belkesa wants to change.
Belkesa* is 10 years old and lives in the local community near the Skate School in Kabul. She has been a Skateistan student for a long time, as she first enrolled in the Back-to-School program three years ago. The Back-to-School program is an accelerated learning program for children who are out of school and is often their only chance at getting an education. In Afghanistan, children who are out of school join our Skate School five days a week to cover three grades of public education in 11 months. Upon completing this program, Belkesa is now enrolled and attending the fourth grade in the Afghan government school system.
In the Back-to-School program, Belkesa was always really excited for the classroom sessions and the education that Skateistan lessons provided. At Skateistan in Kabul we provide learning opportunities not only in the classroom, but in non-traditional environments like the skatepark and sports hall. As much as she loved learning in the classroom she also loved free time so she could practise skateboarding and play other sports, like soccer.
We run five programs within our Skate Schools for children aged 5-17: Outreach, Dropping In, Skate and Create, Back-to-School and Youth Leadership. Skateistan programs are designed so that children can stay involved with the Skateistan community for the long term. As a result, the Back-to-School program was not the end of Belkesa’s time as a student at Skateistan. Since graduating from the program and enrolling in Afghan public school, Belkesa now attends Skate and Create lessons once a week. She is a very motivated student and enjoys the Skate and Create lessons because she gets to learn new things, which cover a wider range of topics than what she learns in school.
In the classroom, Belkesa is an amazing listener and her love of learning is evident in the way that she passionately participates in every class. She has recently been learning about wildlife and our natural environment, she finds it exciting to be able to explain these concepts to her friends and other people in her life. But she doesn’t stop there, she takes the initiative to learn new things in class by challenging her teachers and her classmates, often supporting the teacher by explaining concepts about what she finds interesting to her classmates. For example, she loves to learn about wildlife, and will often speak publicly to the class about why she finds these these things so exciting.
Belkesa is developing her passion for public speaking and women’s empowerment by attending Skateistan programs, where she’s learning about the importance for girls and women to be able to participate in physical activity and play sports.
Soroush, one of Belkesa’s former Educators talks about her motivations and ambitions:
In addition to taking an interest in the natural environment and wildlife, Belkesa has developed a passion for public speaking and enjoys presenting in front of the class.
It is incredibly important to have an advocate like Belkesa for women and girls at a time when about 44% of Afghan children (approximately 3.7 million) aged 7 to 17 years old are out of school. Girls make up 60% of the total children missing school, and in some of the more unstable provinces, more than 85% of girls are not in school. More than that, girls at every single age are far less likely than boys to attend public school and receive an education.
By combining skateboarding with creative, arts-based education, we give children the opportunity to become leaders for a better world. Through lessons that help children to learn life skills, to be creative and to think critically, we help them navigate through life’s challenges. Belkesa has a thirst for knowledge, is an intelligent and passionate public speaker and is starting to carve her path as a women’s rights advocate in a place where there are few of them. She’s already starting to help change the world for the better, and we can’t wait to see her follow her passions.
If you love what we’re doing and want to get involved, become a Citizen of Skateistan today to help more children like Belkesa discover their potential.