March 21, 2008

290407 school field solastalgia

At the other end of the overhead bridge opposite Wat Ananda Metyarama, the field of the former Zhangde Primary School:


Once upon a time, schools in Singapore had such big fat fields for kids to run & play in. The cat used to play in such a field during recess & in the couple of hours between lessons & after-school track & field training sessions - catching, police & thief, hantam bola, 'wallet game' (where a 'catcher' had to catch whoever was holding onto a wallet that could be thrown/passed between players) & 'ghostbusters' (where the space between the hedges & the perimeter fence was used as a tunnel & a hiding place from prefects & teachers out to catch us). In the rainy season, we took off our shoes & socks to run barefoot & slide around & dig for earthworms in the mud, & then washed off the muck from our hands & legs at the canteen sinks at the end of recess.

Few schools still enjoy the luxury of a big fat field, & kids are now fatter than before. Who still runs around in the sun during recess & PE lessons?

Recess is time for extra lessons, time for last minute cramming for tests & exams, time for last minute homework, time for prefect duties, time to 'see the teacher', time for toilet washing duties (a practice now abolished?), time for punishment, even time for extra ECA training...during the cat's primary school days, recess was time for track & field training on top of training sessions before/after school & on Saturdays, when competition dates were near.

PE lessons are for teachers of other 'more important' examination subjects (NAPFA fitness tests don't count towards secondary school, JC/poly & university admissions) to grab, or even cancel as a punishment for misbehaviour, or because it costs too much for the school to maintain/returf a barren field that has been trodden upon by too many feet during a dry spell, & having a field with bald patches would 'reflect badly' on the school. The field of the cat's primary school would be sealed off for weeks on end during prolonged dry spells. When that happened, friends & the cat would move their 'catching' games into the basketball court & canteen areas, running & leaping onto & across canteen benches & tables ;)

How many parents now freak out at the thought of their kids being exposed to UV rays & green grass & shedding so much as a droplet of sweat? Kids who are now fatter than before are also increasingly 'allergic' to grass & sweat. Such use waste of space is also deemed sacrilegious in Singapore, where precious limited land is better devoted to uses like golf courses that a select/privileged few of the kids who are now fatter & also increasingly 'allergic' to grass & sweat will grow up to enjoy.

More than half the area of the field in the cat's primary school has been concretised for extension buildings & a basketball court - none of the kids who are now fatter & also increasingly 'allergic' to grass & sweat seem to be 'allergic' to concrete as well. In fact, they thrive in its protection from the elements of nature & the promise of climate controlled airconditioned comfort within concrete structures, & the hum of compressors is their lullaby.

The original field in the cat's primary school, much like the one picture above, with big fat rain trees & a set of parallel bars, dwells in the part of its little brain reserved for the memory of places lost, a collection of the roots that have been severed by demolition & concretisation & thus no longer bind this cat to this land full of kids who are now fatter & also increasingly 'allergic' to grass & sweat but not concrete.

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