Skateistan Shipping Container Facilities: Teaching Kids Through Skating
Afghanistan has a lot of problems, from extremist Islamists trying to fight their way into government, to years of invasion by different power blocs in the world that have, let’s face it, not done a brilliant job in sorting out that country’s ills. Women and girls face repression on a massive scale due to cultural practices that date back thousands of years. We in the west don’t understand that culture, arguably one of the reasons we have never really tackled its problems.
A nongovernmental group has set up a skateboarding based community and education centre in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan with the express intent of educating children, both boys and girls, and providing a community hub for kids to hang out and forget the problems they face outside.
Set up in 2007 in Kabul and then 2013 in Mazar-e-Sharif, the skate parks were built as community hubs and a place where men, women, boys and girls can enjoy the same sport together and develop social networks, as well as having some form of education.
Local tradition prevents women and girls from riding bicycles. It doesn’t however forbid them from using skateboards. This triggered the concept of setting up a community centre that both boys and girls can use, where they can all participate in the same sport.
According to the Skateistan website, “Thanks to skateboarding youth are exposed to people of different ethnicities, gender and beliefs. It provides you with a community to inspire, guide and challenge the participator. It also teaches you how to be creative with your ideas and it provides the outlets for that creativity.”
For women and girls whose families don’t want them to mingle with boys and men, the skate parks in Afghanistan have women and girls-only sessions for them to enjoy skateboarding without causing a clash with their families’ cultural norms. Due to the success of the concept, around 200 of the 400 children that use each skate park are women and girls, a major step forward for a country renowned for gender inequality.
One of the major issues with the place that women have in Afghan society is that they frequently get little or no education. The Skateistan community centres offer education to all the children that visit. It is a fairly laid back affair with Skateistan stating, “The students themselves decide what they want to learn – we connect them with a safe space and opportunities for them to develop the skills that they consider important.”
What we in the West believe is good for families and children frequently differs to that of someone who was born and brought up there. Full time education might not be possible in a family that is so dirt poor that they need their children to work as soon as they are big and strong enough, just to help feed the family. Self-directed education to that extent is no bad thing as ultimately the children will know what they need to learn within their own personal needs.
Mazar-e-Sharif Community Centre
The 6,000 square foot Mazar-e-Sharif Skateistan community centre is built with a large number of 40ft shipping containers that were sourced from within Afghanistan to create a wide variety of spaces, including “two classrooms, two workshop areas, and a large open dining room space and conference room, both of which can also be used to accommodate larger art projects. In order to support student needs, the facility also includes a prayer room, and a two-story student support office.”
The skating hall forms the centrepiece of the complex. This is inside a military ‘K-Span’ building that contains ramps that were designed in Europe by world famous skate ramp designers, IOU Ramps. This has a variety of ramps that are designed to help people get into the sport and then to challenge them throughout their skating careers.
In addition the complex also includes an indoor multi-sports hall for girls and boys to play other sports. Just this year the complex opened an indoor climbing wall for girls and boys to enjoy.
Due to the success of the Skateistan concept, it has developed new centres in South Africa and Cambodia. These centres also reach children that may not have the opportunity for an education and gives them a step up where otherwise there may be nothing. Organisations like these can really help communities, and by working within local cultural norms can help with local development.
Inspired by this shipping container skate park?
Buildings like Skateistan can be constructed quickly and effectively whether it’s in former war zone, the Aussie outback, or an empty lot in Brisbane. Contact us now to discuss your options when it comes to building with recycled shipping containers – we’ve got access to a wide variety of specialists in the local community from architects to builders who are experienced in construction with shipping containers.