Student Profile: Thabile's Story

Thabile* is nine years old. She lives in New Doornfontein with her parents and little sister, and she attends school across the road. Thabile and her family first moved to New Doornfontein in 2016 from another area in the city, she explained that she did not have friends or know anyone else other than her own family. One day she met a girl called Kat. They soon learned that they both lived in the same building, and became friends.

Later that day, Thabile was on her way home when she heard sounds of boards flipping and wheels rolling at Skateistan. She rushed to see what was happening. She was curious to know what activities there were running at the Skate School in downtown Johannesburg.

Tabile remembers: “I met Wendy at the gate reception who is an Educator at Skateistan. She was very welcoming and lovely, invited me in and explained the activities that happened here, and gave me a registration form to take home for my parents. I wanted to learn how to skate, so I promised her that I would return with the registration form signed by my parents tomorrow after school. “When the school bell went off, I packed my bag and rushed to Skateistan to submit my form. I could not wait to start. I did not know what to expect, but I was curious and I knew it would be safe.”

However, when Thabile arrived at Skateistan, there were lots of boys and they were also interested in skateboarding. She became upset because she thought the boys might be aggressive even when they are only playing.

“The boys skated very fast, I was slow. I felt upset because they skated fast, I had only just started skating. But it did not allow me to stop doing what I like.” Thabile explains.
“I was nervous of the Educators at first, because I thought they would send me home because I am a girl and girls cannot skate. I was relieved to learn that was not true, Skateistan is about fairness and equality.” She says.

At first, Thabile was shy to greet others and make friends. So she would go to the second floor to do her homework and study and for a while, she still had no friends. Lessons at Skateistan include skills such as creating a safe and welcoming environment, talking to people from other communities and kindness and respect. After a while, Thabile invited Kat from her building to come join her at Skateistan. Since then, she has made many friends and still continues to build new friendships. For new students that join the program whenever Thabile is around, she welcomes them to Skateistan, introduces them to all the Educators, shows them around shares the rules that we have here to keep us safe. She also helps to teach them to skate so they don’t feel afraid.

Thabile now participates in Homework Help, Skate and Create, games day and the reading club. She also enjoys being part of the Tuesday and Saturday girl sessions and life skills sessions. She values these sessions because they are only for girls.

In the beginning, Thabile was socially challenged, but now she has built many friendships, and she has also learned good social skills. This is highlighted through her favourite lesson about Human Rights.

“We learned about human rights in our Saturday life skills session. Before, I did not know anything about human rights. I learned that everyone is born with human rights. The best part of the lesson is when the teacher shared with us an example of human rights. Like the right to education, the right to life, the right to shelter and everyones’ right to equality. I then realised that learning about rights is important, everyone deserves to be given an opportunity in life and so I continue doing my part to make everyone feel accommodated. I can now teach others about human rights.”

Lisa, one of Thabile’s Educators at Skateistan, shares highlights of the progress Thabile has made.

“When I first met Thabile, she always said her mind and wanted her own way. Now, she is well mannered and when she does not understand something she will make sure she asks the Educator to explain further without feeling bothered by other students. She first struggled to empathize with other students, but after lessons about being kind and respectful, she still has strong opinions but she also respects other students’ feelings and views.”

Thabile has really changed in her time at Skateistan. She has changed from someone who would respond to challenges negatively to someone who helps others, shares her own experiences and is eager to learn.

“I cannot imagine a life without Skateistan. Life would be very boring, I would probably watch television after school everyday and not be active. Skateistan does not only assist me with my grades and also helps stay fit and healthy.”

Skateistan combines creative education with skateboarding and other sports to empower children. Through lessons that help children to learn life skills, to be creative and to think critically, we help them to adjust to social situations and navigate better through life’s challenges. Become a Citizen of Skateistan today to help more children like Thabile to discover their true potential.

*In accordance with Skateistan’s Child Protection Policy, Thabile’s name has been changed.