Once upon a time, in the vibrant town of Bawku nestled in the Upper East Region, lived a spirited young girl named Patience Atibila. Aged 45 now, she fondly reminisces about the days when the sun kissed the dusty playgrounds, and the rhythmic sounds of Ampe and skipping ropes echoed through the air.

In the small towns and villages, Amp3, skipping rope and hot scotch weren't just games; they were traditions, a rite of passage for young girls. These activities formed the fabric of their daily lives, fostering not only physical well-being but also emotional resilience.

As technology began to weave its influence into the lives of the young ones, these games faced a steady decline. The Web, TV programs, movies, and a plethora of entertainment options took centre stage, casting a shadow over the simplicity and joy these traditional games once brought.

Patience laments the fading popularity of Ampe and skipping rope. She reflects on the countless benefits these games provided. Physically, they were a source of daily exercise, keeping the girls fit and healthy. Emotionally, the games created a network of real friendships. In the small circles of playmates, they shared challenges, fears, and dreams, building a strong support system that withstood the test of time.

"Back then, we had little material things, but we were self-motivated, and that is what has propelled us to date," Patience reminisces, a hint of nostalgia in her voice.

Her journey with Amp3, skipping rope and hot scotch started as early as age 5. The games were more than just pastimes; they were an integral part of her childhood. However, as fate would have it, secondary school ushered in a new chapter, one that separated Patience from her playmates. A humble background and the divorce of her parents meant she spent vacations travelling Southern Ghana in search of financial stability.

As Patience reflects on the bygone era of Amp3 and skipping rope, she acknowledges the relevance of these activities, especially considering the health benefits they bestowed. However, she contemplates a shift towards more modern physical activities like table tennis, volleyball, soccer, and swimming—activities that could potentially build career paths for practitioners.

Three decades ago, in a quaint community where the rhythm of life was set by the sun and the shade of baobab trees, mothers wielded a unique power. Without the need for phones or elaborate communication, they could simply stretch their necks over the walls of their houses to call out to their young girls, summoning them for assistance with household chores.

In those days, after the final school bell rang, the air would buzz with the laughter and chatter of adolescent girls. They'd converge under the welcoming embrace of trees—some in front of their houses, others under the communal shade of majestic baobabs. The gathering wasn't just a leisurely pursuit; it was a ritual of connection, of playing ampe and skipping rope until the sun dipped below the horizon.

Every house seemed to boast a tree in its front yard, offering shade and a natural gathering spot for the young ones. And for those few houses without their own arboreal companion, the community's larger trees, particularly the wise old baobabs, stood sentinel, providing enough shade for games and storytelling.

Ampe, the rhythmic clapping of hands and agile footwork, echoed in harmony with the skipping ropes brushing against the ground. These simple yet vibrant games were the heartbeat of the community, weaving together the stories of young lives in a tapestry of shared joy and camaraderie.

As the sun arched its way across the sky, the games of ampe, skipping rope and hot scotch kept the adolescent girls occupied, their laughter mingling with the rustle of leaves and the occasional creaking of a swing.

In the warmth of the day, bonds were formed, and memories were etched beneath the comforting branches of age-old trees.

When night descended, bringing with it a blanket of stars, the girls would find time to rest and rejuvenate, ready to embrace a new day filled with the promise of more games and shared laughter.

In schools, the games transcended the individual, becoming communal experiences where competition and camaraderie danced hand in hand. Few girls were found merely seated; instead, most were engrossed in the vibrant tapestry of ampe and skipping rope, monitoring the games' ebbs and flows.

In the tapestry of time, those games were more than mere pastimes—they were the threads that bound a community together.

In the absence of today's digital distractions, the laughter, the games, and the shade of the baobab trees created a shared narrative that echoed through the years, a testament to the simple joys that once defined the rhythm of life under the African sun.

Amp3 was brain teaser for Rashida & Salatu

Abubakari Rashida, a civil servant, holder of a secondary degree, and a businesswoman born and raised in Ejura in the Ashanti region expressed that Ampe, skipping rope, and hot scotch served as a means of entertainment and socialisation among peers.

She added, "Unconsciously, it was also a form of exercise we didn't recognize. It was also a brain teaser involving critical thinking and logic."

She pointed out that the devaluation of these games has been influenced by social media and the school environment.

"When you progress to secondary or tertiary education, you lose access to the peers you used to play it with. In short, both pupils will outgrow it."

Rashida highlighted that Ampe is predominantly played from infancy, starting from the age of 3 upwards. She acknowledged the difficulty in reviving it but suggested incorporating it into the educational system, sports, and culture as a potential avenue.

She noted that Ampe was primarily played within Zongo communities and some villages, and children in more formal communities or households were less involved in such traditional play.

She reminisced, "We used to live in a big family in the same household, and parents and children shared everything, playing together. Parents' upkeep and upbringing used to be a shared responsibility."

She observed a shift in recent times, noting that educated or affluent individuals often discourage their children from playing with those less privileged, contributing to the decline in Ampe.

Abubakari also pointed out that some private schools limit social opportunities for children and keep them late, making it difficult for them to socialise.

Homework and extra classes were identified as minor factors contributing to the diminishing popularity of Ampe.

"I believe the shift is connected to changes in community living, transitioning to more nuclear family structures amidst busier economic lives," expressed Salatu Abubakar, WIAD officer for the Department of Agriculture in the northern region.

Salatu emphasised the holistic impact of the games on physical and mental faculties, stating, "The games engaged every part of the body's senses, fostering communication, and honed the brain's sharpness through the constant calculation of steps and strategies against playing opponents."

Initiating the games at the age of four, Salatu discontinued at 17. Reflecting on cherished memories, she shared, "Even during my secondary school days, my mom would join me and our co-tenants in evening play sessions after completing dinner and all household chores."

Expressing the enduring relevance of these games, Salatu asserted, "I believe it's still necessary, given the mentioned benefits. Additionally, it can contribute to managing or reducing child obesity, which is becoming alarming."

She advocated for a collective parental effort, urging parents to prioritise their children's well-being over presumed negative influences from neighbours and society at large.

Salatu's insights underscore the importance of preserving traditional games for their multifaceted contributions to physical health and social bonds.

Tangoba and Zenabu Reactions

Former Upper East Regional Minister Tangoba Abayage, who was born into the era of traditional games, reminisced about the limited options their generation had.

Reflecting on her upcoming 60th birthday in June, she shared, "I witnessed these games. I grew up seeing others doing it, and I joined in when I went into it. We had no idea about the health benefits. We were just doing it to enjoy.. It bonded us – it brought us together, and we were there together and got to know each other very well."

In acknowledging the changes over time, she noted the scarcity of activities during her youth. She remarked, "We didn’t have a lot of TVs. There was no pressure on children. Today, everyone has a TV and radio, providing them with many options. The internet is all over the place. Ampe was competitive in school. It is not now."

She concurred that contemporary children are shifting away from traditional games due to heightened familial pressure for success. She stated, "Right at the age of 3, there is pressure on children to succeed, and there is no time for children to play these games. Time space is not there, and the world is very competitive."

While Tangoba acknowledged the potential relevance of the traditional games for exercise, she emphasised that modern women have numerous activities that define them. Losing these traditional games, she argued, does not equate to losing identity.

Expressing skepticism about the revival of these games, she suggested that the Ghana Education Service (GES) could play a pivotal role by deliberately integrating these games into the curriculum. She proposed, "GES can make it compulsory that every other day – twice a week – sports teachers introduce them. You can’t force your children to do it if it is not part of the curriculum."

Zenabu Salifu, a public servant, reminisced about the significance of traditional games in her childhood, recalling how they served as a source of motivation and entertainment when she was just ten years old.

Like many young girls of her generation, Zenabu recounted learning games like Ampe through observation and participation, often cheering on her older siblings and absorbing the rules of the game. Competing in these games felt akin to participating in a World Cup match, with each victory or defeat leaving a lasting impression.

"It helped develop my teamwork skills. For example, in Ampe, we played in pairs or teams, requiring us to cooperate effectively to outperform our peers," she explained.

According to Zenabu, these games instilled valuable lessons in teamwork, as they often required players to collaborate with others to achieve success.

However, she lamented that the extended family system, which once facilitated the promotion of these games, has become less effective over time, diminishing their role in fostering unity within communities.

Reflecting on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits derived from playing traditional games, Zenabu emphasised their positive impact on overall well-being. "It contributed to our physical well-being as a form of exercise, and it also had positive effects on us mentally and emotionally," she remarked.

She proposed that schools, churches, or mosques take proactive measures to revive these games, as children today often lead busier lives, leaving little time for leisure activities.

Gary & Ellen Reactions

According to Gary Al-Smith, a sports journalist at JoyNews, traditional games lack formal regulations and acknowledgment, thus making it unlikely for them to have championships. However, he emphasised that these games hold cultural significance as they reflect identities and help individuals understand their heritage. Therefore, it is crucial not to neglect them.

Al-Smith expressed concern that these games are at risk of disappearing due to factors such as parents' lack of time to teach them to their children and some individuals' unfamiliarity with the games. Additionally, he noted that urbanisation has led to limited spaces for practising these games, further exacerbating the threat to their preservation.

“There is not much place for people to practise these games because most people now live in the cities,” He said.

Ellen White Opoku, Girls' Education Officer in the Bono East Region and JoyNews Impact Makers Awardee, emphasises the value of traditional games in instilling a contemporary culture in children.

She suggests integrating games like Ampe, skipping rope, and hot scotch into the Physical Education curriculum, leveraging media for awareness, and parental encouragement to revive these games.

“Our present youth can exercise and develop their cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains through these traditional games like Ampe, skipping rope, and hot scotch. It can also help the youth to learn diverse cultural practices and different traditional games from different ethnic jurisdictions,” she said.

Ellen advocates for schools to incorporate traditional games into teaching methodologies, prioritise co-curricular activities, and introduce them in intra- and inter-school sports. She also recommends involving traditional councils, chiefs, NGOs, and the government in organising festivals, symposiums, and programs to promote and modernise traditional games, supported by funding and resources from the cultural unit of the Ghana Education Service.

“Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can initiate programs with the help of the government to encourage and reward youth and people who show much interest in practising our traditional games like skipping rope and Ampe and hot scotch. NGOs and government can also produce modernised and improvised accoutrements to aid in revamping these traditional games.”

Patience envisions a different path—research into the benefits of Amp3 and skipping rope could be packaged and sold to gym owners. These traditional games, once woven into the cultural fabric, could become a fun and nostalgic addition to fitness routines, offering patrons a unique and enjoyable way to stay fit.

The tale of Janet and the vanishing games is not just a story of the past; it's a reflection on the evolving landscape of entertainment and the need to preserve the simple joys that once defined the lives of young girls in small towns and villages.

As technology marches forward, Janet stands at the crossroads, holding onto memories of Amp3 and skipping rope, hoping to keep the spirit of those cherished games alive for generations to come.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.