Considering that only 15% of South African’s can swim and the country’s terrible drowning statistics, learning how to swim should be prioritised as an essential skill that all South Africans have – especially children.
This is according to Andrew Ingram, Drowning Prevention Manager at the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) who is happy to announce that the NSRI has just launched their first survival swimming centre. “This centre combats two critical issues we have identified, which is offering underprivileged children access to a safe swimming pool, which many communities do not have and secondly, by offering the lessons at no cost means there is no financial barrier” he states.
The centre is built in a twelve-metre shipping container which features a six-meter-long swimming pool, an office space for the instructor and change room for the students. In addition to some of the safety features, the pool is one metre deep allowing small children to stand in it. Being a shipping container means that the pool can be completely locked up when not in use to ensure there is no danger of anyone entering the pool while instructors are not on duty.
Ingram states that the first phase of the project will be trailed and tested at Meiring Primary School in Riebeek Kasteel. A school which was identified by the NSRI after a fatal drowning incident that took place there. “Even though there are many incidents like these in the country, we selected the school because we already (like in many other parts of the country) have a swimming instructor servicing that area,” he adds.
Brenton Cupido, Headmaster at Meiring Primary School says that they are very excited to be the first school to receive the Survival Swimming Centre. “Following the fatal drowning incident at our school, myself, the staff, and the school pupils were terribly affected by this incident. It is crucial for our school children to be taught survival swimming to prevent any further tragedies,” he explains.
The roll out of the swimming lessons will start off with teaching the Grade 7s and two school teachers which will be followed by all the other pupils and teachers who are interested in learning. The first set of teachers who will be taught will be those who are interested in learning to become Survival Swimming Instructors and able to carry the safe swimming culture forward in their communities.
Ingram explains that by targeting these teachers first it means they will eventually become survival swimming instructors. “The set of skills of becoming a Survival Swimming Instructor is something that we will be leaving the teachers with for the benefit of not only the school, but the community as a whole.”
The fundamental lessons that will be covered during the swimming lessons include how to hold your breath under water, opening your eyes whilst under water and how to float and to safely propel yourself for at least 5 metres in water.
“The swimming container is incredibly advanced with built-in cameras inside that are monitored by the NSRI’s Emergency Operations Centre. In addition to that it has numerous monitoring devices to check the air temperature, humidity, and water quality,” Andrew states.
“This project has received incredible support from the swimming pool industry which has made it possible to do a proof of Concept on a tight budget. For example, we have a purpose designed swimming pool and top of the range filtration and circulation system in the SSC which were fully donated. This, with the specialist help given to us by various industry leaders, has made what was a dream a reality.”
“We hope to create a swimming culture amongst the children and teachers who we have taught how to swim. The skills the teachers will gain will allow them to teach upcoming students how to survive in water,” concludes Ingram
“With slight modifications to the design of this Survival Swimming Centre we will be able to deploy them anywhere in the country. For example, by using Solar Power where there is no electricity, we can service communities that previously had little chance of having a swimming pool to learn to swim in.
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