Games of the past and present

TEACHING is considered a noble profession and teachers are held in high esteem throughout the world for the services they render as professionals.

Since I consider teaching a vocation, my last six years had been spent with much determination trying to get students to excel in their studies. I’ve also instilled in them the love for sports and the outdoors.

My entry into teaching as you can see is quite recent as I used to work with an advertising agency before. I now teach English and Science at a Chinese school in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a real paradigm shift as I had to quickly pick up skills and adapt to a new environment.

I must say that I have assisted students in class to either marginally improve or to excel in their studies, but it is the outdoor activities that have so far left me quite befuddled.

It is amazing to see how students study and play today, compared to children from the last four decades.

I remember travelling with my mother to Semenyih, Selangor, in the early 70s during the year-end school holidays where I would stay with my cousins who lived on a rubber estate near the town.

Semenyih was tranquil and slow-moving in those days.

As a child, there was nothing more wondrous than looking for guppies in clear-running streams in the estate.

I also waited anxiously then for the ripened rubber fruits to “pop” and spill its seeds for us to collect.

It was the carefree days that I cherished most. Childhood games then were simple and some were invented with discarded items that were readily available at home or in the neighbourhood.

We often played with multi-coloured rubber bands that we “stole” from home.

It was sheer delight to play with the rubber bands as we could tie them and form a skipping rope.

We could also stack them and “hit” them. It was easy to identify the winners of the game for their trouser pockets would be bulging witht rubber bands!

There was also another card game that was immensely popular.

For those before my generation, the game was played with discarded cigarette packs, but over the years, picture cards of famous airplanes, ships, and even war movie heroes, were used

The game was usually played by two partcipants, or if there were more players, they could play in teams.

Each team would then place a given number of cards which would be arranged or stacked on the ground.

A large square or circle would then be drawn around the cards. Another important tool of the game was one of a pair Japanese slippers!

What the player had to do was to stand from a certain distance and throw the slipper in a certain way to break the stack of cards. The cards that fell out of the square/circle was for the player to keep.

At the end of the game, the team or player who had the most number of cards would be pronounced the overall winner.

There was another game called ‘’kaunda- kaundi’’ or “kondo-kondi”, where the only tools required were sticks and a pair of steady hands.

A hole was dug in the ground and a short stick would be placed in the hole.

The rules required a player to use the longer stick to push the shorter stick out of the hole.

The person who managed to push the stick the furthest, was declared the winner.

Games during my childhood went easy on parents’ pockets. Games like hop-scotch, five-stones and skipping with the skipping rope were great games. They also required one to be focused and agile.

We were more vigorous and active and enjoyed the pleasure of playing outdoors. There were of course the more “expensive” games like tennis and badminton, which were also popular.

Football was a favourite sport even in those days, and any open space was not left to waste by the local boys who would come up with make-shift goal posts, to play the much-loved game.

While outdoor games are still popular today, it is different now. The students I teach lead more sedantary lifestyles and don’t seem to appreciate the simple joys.

They are into sophisticated and expensive games that are a far cry from those available during my childhood days.

Technology has drastically changed today’s children who are glued to their personal computers, play stations or video games.

The focus seems to be on coming up with games where children can play in comfort.

Even the toys and gadgets that cater to children today are worlds apart from those that I played as a child in the past.

Whether the games that children played in my time were “better” than the games children play today, is a moot point.

The debate continues on whether children today are in a better state than those of the generations before.

Certain things are for sure — the children of today face stiffer challenges and difficulties.

The increasing number of cyber cafes and the easy availability of pornographic materials, enable youngsters to easily pick up bad habits.

Smoking, consuming alcohol and resorting to drugs and substance abuse, are only some of the negative influences.

Hence, children growing up today face daunting challenges.

What I think we need to do as teachers, parents and guardians is to guide children to choose healthy and profitable activities so they can stay on the right track.

It certainly means that parents and teachers should be aware of what is attracting children out there, as manufacturers ply all sorts of products and services to cater to the fast-growing and lucrative children’s consumer market.

Yes, the simple games of the past have come to an end.

It is time to be watchful of the young and ensure that the environment remains safe and secure for them.

by Christopher Fernandez.

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