Skating breaks societal prejudice, empowers young people in Namibia’s capital
Published: Sep 22, 2022 06:47 PM
People visit a site in Namibia's capital Windhoek on Sept. 27, 2020, the World Tourism Day. (Photo by Ndalimpinga Iita/Xinhua)

People visit a site in Namibia's capital Windhoek on Sept. 27, 2020, the World Tourism Day. (Photo by Ndalimpinga Iita/Xinhua)

Skating is empowering children living with disabilities to realize their full potential as well as improve inclusion while helping to reduce stigma and increase self-confidence in adolescents living in Namibia's capital Windhoek.

Through Skate Aid, an international nonprofit making organization, young boys and girls from the Namibia Institute of Special Education are breaking societal prejudice and transforming community attitudes, shifting negative perceptions against persons with disabilities.

For Thomas, a learner, growing up with a disability has been very challenging but skating has given him confidence and value. He no longer feels inferior and discriminated against.

"When we are skating, it does not matter if you are blind, deaf, rich or poor, black or white, we are all just the same. We speak the same language and follow the same rules on the court. I am happy to be a part of this team," he said.

The 12-year-old says skating has not only changed his life but it has given him a purpose where he is excited about his future which he hopes will include the sport.

"Skating is a beautiful thing, when I see all these kids, we practice together and every time we teach each other and for those that do not understand they are learning sign language just so that we can communicate," he said.

"I am happy," he added.

Thomas has been a part of the skaters since a skate park was built inside the Namibia Institute of Special Education in 2018 and he is at the park almost every day except on weekends when he rests. 

The Namibia Institute of Special Education consists of three schools, including the school for the visually impaired, the school for the hearing impaired, and the school for the cognitive impaired. 

Children from these three schools make use of the park, which is also open to the public.

Through the skate park, these children have managed to find acceptance. Love and hope make them strive to be the best in their everyday life and possibly change their circumstances of being overlooked and not always prioritized.

Sixteen-year-old Kamaya has not only learned how to skate, but he has also learned sign language which he says is a bonus because now he is able to communicate with his fellow teammates.

"When I first started skating, I struggled to communicate because I did not know any sign language but I made it a point to learn, and now I can greet. I would like to say that I know the basics. It is a good thing because I do not just skate with my teammates, now we can talk stories," he said.

Kamaya is now a pro skater and can do different tricks which he is now trying to teach the younger less skilled teammates.

According to Michael Kagola, a skate aid volunteer and coach, the skaters consist of a variety of age groups ranging from 8 to 19 who are not only from the Namibia Institute of Special Education but also from the surrounding communities.

Karola, who is a teacher by profession, believes that skateboarding is helping mold these children into better individuals and also teaching them the values of teamwork while allowing children to understand that their talent and abilities can be developed through effort and consistency.

"We work with children from all walks of life including the hearing, visual and cognitive impaired," Kagola said. 

"We want to empower and instill values in them which will better their lives. Skateboarding will teach them that you always get up when you fall. Just like when you are learning a trick, you fall but always get up. It will teach them how to overcome failure." 

The children are facing tough situations where most of them come from impoverished backgrounds, Kagola said.

"We want to empower kids, get them off the street and deter them from roaming around, we want them to use their free time doing something productive instead of having them engage in bad behavior."

"It is funny how a piece of concrete and some skateboards can change people's lives and build confidence and drive," Kagola said.

Although skating is not yet recognized as a professional sport in Namibia, these children already feel like winners as they practice and perfect their skills.

"We hope that one day the sport will be recognized professionally but for now we will just use it the best way we can, that is to give these kids a skating board and empower them," Kagola said.