Nine year old Ayanda loves going to school to learn new things, she can speak three languages and prefers social sciences to maths. She is a happy kid and when she grows up she wants to be a singer in a band. But day-to-day life hasn’t been easy for Ayanda. She doesn’t know her father and as a single mother to two girls, her mum works long hours often leaving their tiny flat early in the morning and returning late at night.
The family live in the heart of one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Johannesburg, South Africa but because her mum is at work Ayanda has to walk each day along dangerous streets to reach her school and when she gets back she has no one to help her with homework.
Ayanda said: “I walk to and back from school with friends and sometimes I have to alone cause like some of them go in transport. I do mind walking because there are cars they go wherever they want to, even if it is red. I would rather not walk. It’s not safe."
"It makes me sad that I don’t get to see my mum. She is really busy and comes home late so can’t do my homework with me.”
But thanks to money raised by RND / SR, Ayanda is now getting lots of support with her schoolwork and a safe place to play and learn new skills. Skateistan is a skateboarding and out-of-school programme supported by Comic Relief that opened across the street from her flat. For the past year she has learnt how to skateboard, gained essential mentoring and support in building life skills like road safety and gender awareness and also takes part in lessons to help her school-work.
Ayanda said: “I like coming to the lessons here (at Skateistan) because they teach us about things I never learnt at school. There are less of us here, it helps me learn. Today we did a science experiment.”
“I have somewhere to play with friends. If I didn’t come here I have to stay in the flat to be safe. I can come here and play when my mum isn’t around. When I showed my mum my record, she was amazed, I also showed her my homework which I get help with here."
The project also encourages her love of dancing with regular dance sessions and she has gained lots of confidence learning how to skateboard and face her fears.
“It was a bit scary doing my first drop, I was surprised I did it but afterwards I was happy. There is this thing that comes into your mind that just tells you, you can do it."
Skateistan, founded on the streets of Kabul in 2007 is a non-profit organization workingin Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa to connect vulnerable children to education through skateboarding.
Comic Relief awarded Skateistan a grant (in 2015) to enable them to provide a skateboarding based after-school and out-of-school programme for at risk youth in Johannesburg. Through skateboarding, mentoring and life skills training, young people are empowered to get back into or stay in education and escape or avoid negative influences like gangs and violence. Girls face high levels of gender based violence in Johannesburg and are given the opportunity to go to single sex sessions helping them to learn in a safe and supportive environment that is free from intimidation.
Notes: *Name changed for protection purposes