It was extremely difficult to get Skateistan off the ground, says Percovich, because skateboarding is not seen as a very serious activity, especially within the development community. “A lot of people were scratching their heads saying what does this crazy guy want to do with skateboarding, there’s no streets [in Kabul] that are even smooth.”
Percovich says that while not all students are able to go to university, they are trying to encourage meritocracy in Afghanistan. “If we can produce a few leaders, the ones that really show initiative, the ones that really apply themselves, I think we’re doing our job,” he says.
Nearly 40% of Skateistan’s 400 students are female - girls and boys attend on separate days.
Skateistan - a skating and education project - was set up by Australian Oliver Percovich, who arrived in Kabul in 2007 with his skateboard. “The kids didn’t want to watch, they just ran straight to my skateboard… grabbed it and wanted to do it themselves,” he says.
Percovich is aware of the particular issues girls and women face in Afghanistan - but says often the students themselves come up with solutions. “If the young girl is not allowed to go back to Skateistan because the older brother sees it as inappropriate, she cries for three days in order to be allowed back again, because we make it so much fun at the facilities.”
Noorzai Ibrahim was one of the first kids to get involved in Skateistan - he is now one of the lead instructors. Skateistan is sending him to university where he hopes to study to become a doctor.