Thursday, February 28, 2008



Space is a very important factor for the healthy development of human emotions and overall well-being. Crowded housing areas can invite stunted mental and social health. It is estimated that 50% of our population will be urban based by 2010. Yes, it’s going to be much more crowded in our towns and cities. Housing lots have become much smaller and playing fields have literally disappeared in the last twenty years or so. Children now play in the streets. The token playgrounds that were built in some older housing estates times are neither functional nor big enough. Some are overgrown with grass with even snakes lurking in it.

Zoologist Desmond Morris, a former curator of the London Zoo mentions in his book The Naked Ape (1967) that,

“under normal conditions, in their natural habitats, wild animals do not mutilate themselves, masturbate, attack their offspring, develop stomach ulcers, become fetishists, suffer from obesity, form homosexual pair-bonds, or commit murder. Among human city dwellers, needless to say, all of these things occur.. . . . . . Other animals do behave in these ways under certain circumstances, namely when they are confined in the unnatural conditions of captivity. The zoo animal in a cage exhibits all these abnormalities that we know so well from our human companions. Clearly, then, the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.”

City planners and those responsible for schools should begin to take note of this study. Bigger space has to be allocated for children and adults alike. Social problems and juvenile delinquency has been on the steady rise in the last twenty years or so. This can be seen as a consequence of the residential areas that offer little or no space for the children to run and play safely near their homes under watchful eyes of the parents.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s even housing areas assigned for menial workers in estates and the Public Works Department in towns were built in compounds with a playing field right in front of the rows of houses. All government quarters were also provided with playing fields and space for children nearby. In Seremban, such was the case at Melaka Road, Channer Road, Rifle Range Road and Rahang Square. We played games such as rounders and police and thieves besides cricket, football and hockey. It’s sad that such is not the case today. While the upper classes in our society have golf clubs and social clubs complete with swimming pools, tennis, squash and badminton courts for the family members it is sad that the majority of the population has no such luxury. Even the playing fields in the older and established schools have become smaller. The High School in Muar, for instance, had four fields in the 1950’s. Only two remain today even though the school population may have tripled.