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Residents of a rural community in the Eastern Cape recently celebrated the awarding of certificates to 67 locals who have completed the NSRI’s Survival Swimming training.

In the rural village of Tombo in the Eastern Cape, 67 community members – both children and adults – gathered with their friends and family to celebrate the completion of their survival swimming training. Certificates were awarded to everyone who learnt four lifesaving skills: breath control, orientation, floating and moving through water.

This training was made possible with the NSRI’s second mobile Survival Swimming Centre, which was allocated to the village in September 2022. Mlungisi Ndamase, an NSRI-trained local Survival Swimming instructor, conducts the training and oversees the maintenance of the facility. He is supported by the Drowning Prevention Coordinator in the area Valerie Barlow.

SSC 2 certificate ceremony

Why Tombo?

“The Eastern Cape has one of the highest incidents of drowning in the country,” says Dr Jill Fortuin, Executive Director of Drowning Prevention at the NSRI. “There have been over 1800 drownings in six years – that’s more than 300 drownings per year too many! In Tombo and surrounds, about 90% of locals do not know how to swim, and the infrastructure in the area is very poor: schools still have pit latrines, and there are no swimming pools to speak of. Most drownings occur in rivers, the sea, and in pools that form after heavy rain. This is why we identified this as an area in need of a Survival Swimming Centre.”

The mobile centre – the second of its kind in the country – is a converted shipping container that has been fitted with a heated indoor swimming pool, which can be monitored remotely by NSRI management in order to maintain hygiene and safety standards, under the supervision of the local Survival Swimming instructor.

Until recently, not even the head mistress of the local primary school knew how to swim. Now, she has a Survival Swimming certificate. “It’s been so warmly received by the entire village, and is now an integral part of the community. There are holiday programmes for children, and people travel from nearby areas to come and learn how to swim. Everyone who has learnt the Survival Swimming skills will become an inspiration, and hopefully teach their skills to others. We are hopeful that about 20 of the local teachers will go on to become official instructors as well,” Jill says.

The aim for the Tombo Survival Swimming Centre is to provide 3 480 Survival Swimming lessons in the area this year, with 580 persons competent in Survival Swimming.

The NSRI extends its congratulations to the 67 Survival Swimming certificate recipients, who have shown their community what can be achieved, as well as to the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention team.

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