A Childhood Without Technology-Games We Left Behind In The 90s


By Waithera Mbugua

Growing up in the 90s was fun. We had all these games that would make no sense to my nephews and nieces today; kati, rope-jumping, hide-and-seek, bano, football made from polythene bags, duf-mpararo, and so many more. These days, kids only know tech entertainment – and God forbid that they swim in a river! How uncivilized! Though I should mention we have no rivers left to swim in, anyway, thanks to the most destructive animal of all times – Mankind.

So, let’s break these games down and reminisce for a moment – those of us who grew up in the 90s – shall we?

Kati – Queen of Breaktime Games

A typical break-time in most public schools was designed this way; girls would be playing kati while the boys would be running after a football made of polythene bags. Kati, for those who may not be familiar, is played by three or more people; two standing on opposite ends and one between them. The two on opposite ends use a ball made of socks, polythene bags, and all manner of material to try and hit the person between them.

The strategy is for the player in the middle to evade the ball as much as possible – because a simple touch by the ball earns you elimination – while those on the ends will try all they can to land a hit. Girls brought their most creative dodge tactics while the boys brought their eyes – to sneak a peek at girls’ panties. All that jumping and dodging led one’s skirt flaring out all sorts of ways. Such a fun game!

Rope-Jumping – Mablikan

Okay, so a few years ago I found out that the right name for this game wasn’t Mablikan, but Public Van! Waaaa… our African innocent souls sang our hearts out – “Mablikan Mablikan, number 28, I went for a walk but now I stick on a break.” Well, of course now as I type these words out I notice they make no sense at all. But who cared? We had lots of fun.


This one is still popular in most school fields, but boy did we make it interesting! Same as how it’s played today, one person would close their eyes, count to, say, 10 to allow the other players to go hide, and then they would seek them. Simple! The strategy was not only to hide creatively, but also to stay close to the person ‘seeking’ to avoid having to run miles to tap. We probably learned to hide as well or even better than a zebra in Maasai Mara!

Bano – One for the Boy Child

Bano for the boy child! And the girls that just couldn’t sit back and watch fun pass them by. Bano, Kiswahili for marbles, required concentration and perfect aim. The target was a tiny hole – no different from those golf holes – and one needed to aim a marble from a distance right into this hole. Focus, control, and strategy were quite vital.

Duf Mpararo

See, before swimming pools became preferred learning spots for amateur swimmers, we had rivers. We’d all gather at a river on our way home from school and splash water this and that way. As long as you managed to stay afloat, you were doing alright. Oh, and because rivers are not stagnant, you had to battle the current, which was no mean feat. My brother and I always got a beating for being 30 – or so – minutes late, but these super fun swimming moments with the gang were worth it.

What do you miss about your childhood?