Wilma den Hartigh
A new board game, designed and developed by three South Africans, is adding some spark to HIV/Aids and life orientation education across the country.
When one thinks of board games, memories of game nights battling it out against opponents in a round of Monopoly, Pictionary or Balderdash first comes to mind. But now board games seem to be making a comeback as fun and interactive educational tools.
The Gimme 5 board game, now also available online, successfully combines education and entertainment and is changing the way in which children and adults learn about HIV/Aids.
Gimme 5 is the result of four years of research and development by Dr David Kolnick, a dentist, dental technician Ernst Linder, and Derrick Nesbit, a well known cartoonist and illustrator.
"I want to show the world that a South African product can lead the way in the holistic teaching of ethics and values," Kolnick says.
"It has tremendous potential for the future, enabling us to provide a holistic educational tool to reach anywhere in the world at any level in any language."
A catchy name
Naming the game was important as it had to be something that people could remember. Kolnick chose Gimme 5 as it is a universal catch phrase used by children and adults to acknowledge achievement.
A gimme 5, which is also known as a high five, is a celebratory hand gesture that involves slapping together raised flat hands.
Kolnick explains that the name identifies with the fun and achievement as players progress around the board.
Anyone can play
The beauty of the game is that it is suitable for all age groups and it doesn't have complicated rules. Gimme 5 can be played by children in grades R to 12 and up, but it can easily be adapted to suit the requirements of any organisation's aims or training agenda.
Gimme 5 has even been used as an educational tool at St Albans prison in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province.
Played by four individuals, or two teams of two players, it gives contestant s the opportunity to make choices, strategise and take risks to win. The questions and answers are based on the educational requirements of the school curricula for the relevant age groups.
Kolnick designed the game so that teachers, welfare organisations, universities, human resource departments and Aids awareness groups can use the game to communicate information about HIV/Aids in a way that will make a lasting impact.
The game starts from four different locations on the board – a hut, house, shack and a mansion – and shows that all people are affected by HIV/Aids. Instead of the usual board squares, stepping stones and bridges portray the hurdles that the players have to overcome as they progress through life.
Because the game requires planning to gain advantage and move forward, contestants learn the value of preparation, thinking long term and effective decision making.
The board itself has no writing on it so that it can be used for any language group.
Kolnick says that an important aspect of the game is introducing good values. He designed easily recognisable characters, known as Gimme 5 dudes, with whom players of all ages can identify.
They include the healthy dude; honest dude; caring dude; team dude; safe dude and scholar dude. The characters represent various aspects relating to good and bad social and life habits.
Players have to collect the dudes before they can move onto a next level.
Kolnick says that even if children don't remember all the facts, they still benefit from the life skills and values communicated by the Gimme 5 dudes.
Without even realising it, people have fun playing the game and at same time they are learning valuable life skills.
According to Prof Susan van Rensburg from the faculty of education at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the dudes are particularly helpful as representations of values.
"Their benefit is that they transcend the stumbling blocks of cultural and gender differences as they do not present a threat or offence to anybody," van Rensburg says. "They are funky and all age groups can enjoy them."