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The fifth NSRI Survival Swimming Centre was delivered to Steilhoogte Primary School in Vredendal this month, making lifesaving water safety skills accessible to the entire community.

For Andrew Ingram, NSRI’s Drowning Prevention Manager, the delivery of each new Survival Swimming Centre (SSC) is a step towards realising his vision of reaching every community in need in South Africa. In time, this could mean over a thousand remotely managed Centres distributed throughout the country.

“Ideally, this will become a business unit on its own, with its own self-sustaining network,” says Andrew.

This month, on Wednesday 7 September, he oversaw the delivery of a brand new SSC to Steilhoogte Primary School in Vredendal, Western Cape – the fifth to be rolled out since 2021.

“This was the smoothest delivery we have had to date. Steilhoogte’s principal, Manus Spamer, organised a local builder and an electrician to be available on the day, and Stellar Winery – a big supporter of the school through the Stellar Foundation – supplied a crane and forklift to assist with positioning the container and equipment cage.”

SSC5

The new Centre will work hard for this community: not only will it benefit the students at Steilhoogte Primary; but also the surrounding areas through a network of community organisations connected to the school, empowering locals with lifesaving water safety skills.

“Steilhoogte is known for its exceptionally good schooling, thanks to a five-year strategic plan implemented by Manas and his team,” says Andrew.

The Department of Education supplies the school with seven teachers, but the school raised funds to employ seven more, and even offers two special needs classes for students affected by Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Steilhoogte has the only grass-covered rugby field in the area, and secured MTN as a sponsor for rugby boots for their own students as well as other schools in the area. Crime and litter were a huge problem in the community and among students; to break the cycle, Steilhoogte began to keep animals and cultivate an aquaponics vegetable garden at the school, which students had to help look after. Tending to the animals, in particular, helped them to learn to care for vulnerable beings, and motivated them to keep the area litter-free. It’s been a huge success: Steilhoogte has become a flagship school and pillar of the community.

Steilhoogte

“Steilhoogte is a Quintile 1 school, meaning it caters to a community that falls into the poorest 20% in South Africa – a tragically neglected segment of society,” says Andrew. “Yet children here are blossoming. It is an honour to be able to contribute to the school’s success in improving the lives of its students.”

Each SSC is essentially a mobile swimming pool housed inside a shipping container, with water hygiene and temperature monitoring technology. The need for these Centres was identified by the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention team several years ago, which recognised that in many areas of South Africa, the availability of a public swimming pool (which is necessary to teach Survival Swimming skills) is rare or non-existent – and if they do exist, they may not have been properly maintained.

In order to ‘bring the pool to the people’, Andrew, along with the Drowning Prevention team and others, launched an ambitious and innovative project to create a mobile swimming pool prototype, and in 2021, the first Centre was delivered to Meiring Primary School in the Western Cape. Four more have been rolled out since then, and this world-first innovation has garnered a string of accolades, including the International Maritime Rescue Federation’s Innovation & Technology award. In June, the fourth SSC was sponsored to be transported to Spain, to take part in the biggest swimming pool show in the world.

“On behalf of Steilhoogte, all the educators, all the learners and our community, it is a tremendous privilege to thank our special friends from the NSRI for blessing us with this swimming pool,” says Manus. “A whole new world opened up for each and every one and it has broadened our horizons and encouraged us to dream. The impact you’ve had on the minds of every one of us is greater than you can imagine. For our learners, this is an opportunity they never dreamed of before. You’ve opened up your hearts and we truly thank you for your generosity.”

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The NSRI would like to extend its thanks to Alison, Dennis and Gary Cope for their incredible generosity in sponsoring the fifth Survival Swimming Centre. Alison has played a major role in the rollout of the Survival Swimming programme when she headed up the pilot programme at Sea Point Pavilion. Since then she has assisted in the training of some of the other volunteer instructors and hundreds of children can now save themselves from drowning thanks to her instruction.

To donate towards the Survival Swimming Programme, click here.

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