My friend Rushay recently sent me a youtube link to a video (which I cannot embed!) shot by his friend Xolile who runs the Fingo Festival in Grahamstown.  It’s such an interesting piece of footage, which I think tells a hundred stories.  I like what Xolile says ‘If you don’t do something they will find something to do – This shows we need to build Play Parks in the Grahamstown Townships; Otherwise you will see more of the useful things like these water tanks (which are used as a backup when there is no running water in taps) being wasted away’. 


The kids found a novel use for the water tanks, climbing in and on top precariously……..

the 'park ranger' arrives on the scene dispersing the children

They begin to disperse when an adult in uniform (park ranger?) arrives on the scene……


 ‘ranger’ picks up a rock…….


and proceeds to chase the kids, behind a hill, out of sight…I wonder how this all ended???

At first when I watched this my initial reaction was, what an imaginative use of a water tank this was…at the end when the ‘ranger’ appears I felt is this how we treat our children who are ‘just playing’?  Then I think about service delivery issues and the facts Xolile raises in his comments.

Apart from the service delivery and child rights issues what for me was most interesting about this clip was HOW the children were playing and what a fun piece of play equipment a water tank can be.  Let’s discount for a minute that what they are playing with is stolen property (!) and look at how they are playing and how much fun this looks like.  I just think it is inspiration for playground designers, urban planners and the like to see that children will find a play opportunity with anything in the surrounding environment and that risk is such a vital part of playing.

We need a child oriented approach to designing play spaces and I think this gives a good clue as to what children find fun – risk, adventure, freedom, a playful sense of danger.  We need to move beyond primary coloured steel structures and wooden jungle gyms!   There are many of us who are ready to rise to this challenge to provide stimulating play spaces etc but we need support and buy in from the public sector to allocate the space and fund where possible and from the private sector to help with reinvesting much needed funds in such spaces.   Play needs to move up the ladder in funding priorities, playing for children is as integral as nutrition, housing, sanitation and I think this footage highlights that we cant see it as either or,  we need partners in development to recognise the importance of play…they are never ‘just playing’.


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