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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Board game with cultural twist captivates kids

Board game with cultural twist captivates kids

Chay Vath throws the dice in a game that is proving catchy for kids.


itting in the shade of the bungalow roof in a small circle with his friends, Chay

Vath, 15, throws a dice onto a square board decorated with traditional Cam-bodian

scenes. Angkor Wat, a monk, a fisherman, a farmer, a dancer and an Apsara figure

are printed on the board.

Vath picks up the counter and moves it across to a square blue box. One of the

other players picks up a card from the blue box and reads the question, taking care

not to give away the answer.

"What is the name of Cambodia's large and beautiful temples?" he asks.

An easy question, laughs Vath: "Angkor Wat and the Bayon". His answer gets

him a second throw of the dice.

"This game is called Ngetna Deung? (Who Knows?)," he tells the Post. "I

really enjoy playing it, because it is not only fun - it also improves my knowledge."

The game is designed for children and adults, and markets itself as a cultural parlor

game. Krousar Thmey (New Family), which manufactures the game, is an NGO helping

deprived children. The organization recently launched the game, whose questions are

based on Khmer culture and aimed at children in grade 5 and above.

A Khmer team of Krousar Thmey staff and teachers created the list of 2,000 questions

and answers. The questions cover both Khmer and international topics, ranging from

history, geography, civilization and the arts to literature and science. The other

major thrust of the questions is towards other educational topics such as health,

hygiene, morality and child rights.

Pok Than, secretary of state in the Ministry of Education, who has seen the game,

agrees it can help to promote children's knowledge.

"Krousar Thmey did not ask for help from the Ministry when they produced the

program," he says, "but provided their answers are correct, this game should

definitely help the students." He hopes that schools will be able to buy sets

for their libraries.

Ouk Sinath, director of the organization's child protection center in Takmao,

says that the game encourages children to stay at home, rather than go out on the

streets where they might get in trouble.

"It is also prevents kids from playing video games near their schools,"

he adds. "I think all public schools should have this game, because it provides

more general knowledge for students."

They Chan To, project coordinator with NGO Cambokids, says that he knows of the game

and welcomes any entertainment for children that keeps them away from video game


"There are a lot of video games for children's entertainment, but playing these

costs the child's family money, which is often in short supply," he says. "I

also suspect that flickering video screens could be detrimental to their health,

although there is as yet no research in Cambodia that proves this. The important

issue is that communities and families should create other fun activities for children

to reduce violence among them."

Beatrice Montareal, director of Soutien a I'Initiative Privee Pour l'aide a la Reconstruction

(SIPAR), says her organization has already bought copies of the game and given them

to school libraries in seven different provinces. Her impression is that children

enjoy the aspect of competition and the fact that it is simple enough for them to

organize themselves.

"Children and adults seem to enjoy playing it," she says. "This game

is not just for children, but can provide knowledge to anyone."

Florent Comeaux is in charge of logistics at Krousar Thmey. He says the organization

produced 1,000 sets in its first run. Almost half have been sold or given away to

government schools and other NGOs.

The board that takes children on a history adventure.

Comeaux says each copy costs $9.70 to manufacture. That goes to the printing section

of Catholic NGO, Don Bosco, which prints the cards and the board. Disabled workers

at the Banteay Preap Rehabilitation Center make the draughts and remaining parts

of the game. The cost to buyers is $10 per set - the difference allows Krousar Thmey

to fund free copies for those people who request a copy through the Retired Teachers'


"We don't make any profit from this," says Comeaux. "The only benefit

is towards raising awareness of Khmer culture. Our idea is to help the younger generation

to understand Khmer culture, and also provide them with better general knowledge."

Sinath stresses that another benefit of the game is that it is not based on violence

or concepts of money and wealth. That, he says, is important in a society with its

problems of violence.

Cambokids' Chan To says that any energetic entertainment such as dancing and sports

is important in reducing stress levels and getting frustrations out of children's


"This type of game is an important second step in cutting that stress"

he says.

Vath admits that some questions are too complicated for children. That, he says,

is the price for targeting it at adults as well. Although adults can complete the

game in a matter of two hours, it can take children as long as three days to finish.

Thirteen-year-old Keo Lina

agrees with her schoolfriend Vath, both of whom live at the organization's center

in Takmao. Lina says the game has given her useful knowledge about morality, children's

rights and hygiene issues, as well as adding to her store of general knowledge.

She likes the fact that there are no punishments for wrong answers: she merely has

to wait for her turn again.

"The game makes me feel good and I enjoy playing it," she says with a laugh.

"And I think I am getting smarter every time I play it."




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