Skating breaks down societal prejudice and empowers young people in Namibia’s capital

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

Skating empowers children with disabilities to reach their full potential and improves inclusion while helping to reduce stigma and increase self-confidence among teenagers living in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek.

Through Skate Aid, an international non-profit organization, young boys and girls from the Namibian Institute of Special Education are breaking down societal prejudices and transforming community attitudes, changing negative perceptions about people with disabilities.

For Thomas, a learner, growing up with a disability was very difficult, but skating gave him confidence and value. He no longer feels inferior and discriminated against.

“When we skate, it doesn’t matter if you are blind, deaf, rich or poor, black or white, we are all the same. We speak the same language and follow the same rules on the court. I am happy to be part of this team “, did he declare.

The 12-year-old says skating has not only changed his life, but given him a purpose that excites him for his future which he hopes will include the sport.

“Skating is a beautiful thing, when I see all these kids, we train together and every time we teach each other and for those who don’t understand, they learn sign language just so we can communicate,” a- he declared.

“I’m happy,” he added.

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

The Namibian 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 Cognitively Impaired.

Children from these three schools frequent the park, which is also open to the public.

Thanks to the skate park, these children have managed to be accepted. Love and hope drive them to strive to be the best in their daily lives and eventually change their circumstances of being overlooked and not always prioritized.

Kamaya, 16, has not only learned to skate, but he has also learned sign language, which he says is a bonus as he is now able to communicate with his teammates.

“When I started skating I struggled to communicate because I didn’t know any sign language but I made it a point to learn, and now I can wave. I would like to say I know the basics. It’s a good thing because I don’t just skate with my teammates, now we can talk about stories,” he said.

Kamaya is now a professional skater and can do different tricks which he now tries to teach younger, less skilled teammates.

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

Karola, who is a teacher by profession, believes that skateboarding helps transform these children into better individuals and also teaches 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 hearing, visual and cognitive impaired,” Kagola said.

“We want to empower them and instill in them values ​​that will make their lives better. Skateboarding will teach them that you always get up when you fall. Just like when you learn a trick, you fall but you always get up. This teach them how to overcome failure.”

The children face difficult situations where most of them come from poor backgrounds, Kagola said.

“We want to empower children, get them off the streets and deter them from wandering, we want them to use their free time doing something productive instead of forcing them into bad behavior.”

“It’s funny how a piece of concrete and skateboards can change people’s lives and build confidence and motivation,” Kagola said.

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

“We hope that one day the sport will be recognized professionally, but for now we will just use it in the best way possible, which is to give these children a skateboard and empower them” , Kagola said.

Xinhua

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