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A Learn-to-Swim programme was recently launched at Athlone swimming pool by the City of Cape Town, in partnership with the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention unit.

“Only 15% of South Africans can swim,” says Jill Fortuin, Executive Director of Drowning Prevention at the NSRI. “This, together with the World Health Organization’s Framework for Drowning Prevention, has been a key motivating factor in our drive to improve swimming skills, and by doing so, aid in decreasing the incidence of drowning in our country.”

Approximately 30 primary school learners from Athlone Primary attended the launch. Other schools participating in the programme include Silverlea Primary School, and Peak View and Ned Doman High Schools. The programme will be offered at no cost to participants as part of the City’s investment in youth development through recreation.

“There are 800 drownings in South Africa annually, approximately 600 of which are children,” Western Cape Provincial Minister for Social Development, Sharna Fernandez said at the event. “The Western Cape ranks third as the province with the highest number of drownings. It is important to remember that children are vulnerable near water and can drown outside of beaches and pools.”

The Minister is well aware of how important education and awareness around drowning is – her brother Franswa Fernandez recently used one of the NSRI’s Pink Rescue Buoys to save a 21-year-old swimmer in distress at Glencairn.

“Swimming is a life skill,” the Minister said. “Once you can swim, you can help someone else by helping them if they are in distress, teaching them how to swim, or even by making it a career.”

The City of Cape Town’s Recreation and Parks Department has invested approximately R97 000 to establish the Learn-to-Swim programme. In addition to this, the NSRI’s Survival Swimming programme is also provided at Strandfontein Pavilion Tidal Pool, Retreat Pool, Hanover Park Pool and will be growing to further locations in 2022. The goal is to ensure that every municipal pool has this service as part of their offering.

“Our main aim is to leave the kids with water safety knowledge and Survival Swimming skills,” Jill says. “If a child falls in the water, they should be able to get themselves to safety. We are expanding rapidly in the Western Cape. However, this is obviously dependent on the weather, the willingness of the facility managers to participate, as well as the patrons, and the surrounding schools.”

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