Friday , May 24 2024

Kids’ drowning deaths: schools lack wherewithal for swimming lessons

While the high rate of drowning deaths is attributed to the lack of swimming lessons at schools, the fact is that most lack the resources to provide the lessons.

Designating swimming as an elective course in schools has led to many people regarding it as “unimportant,” many physical education experts point out.

“Swimming as a school subject is not well respected because achievements in it are not cherished unlike other subjects,” Nguyen Van Hoa, founder of the Nguyen Binh Khiem-Cau Giay School in Hanoi, said.

Swimming lessons are taught in schools as an extracurricular activity under a national program to prevent accidents and injuries to children. It has helped reduce drowning deaths by 6 percent and teach 40 percent of primary and secondary school students the skills needed to stay safe in water.

But most schools lack the resources to provide those lessons: for instance, due to the inability to have a proper swimming pool.

A HCMC primary school principal said large investments in terms of money, time and personnel are needed to ensure children are properly taught how to swim.

Public schools typically lack pools, and even those that have them do not use them much for teaching due to lack of personnel and high maintenance costs.

Schools also do not have dedicated swimming teachers. Most are only trained at physical education, and teaching swimming requires a professional trainer, the principal added.

In 2010 HCMC became the first locality in the country to add swimming to the school curriculum, but has been plagued by the lack of swimming teachers and pools.

16 primary schools in District 1 signed up for a program to teach third graders, and have had to depend on the district’s sports and physical exercise center.

Nguyen Phi Hai, head of the center’s service department, said students are taught 16 sessions per term on average. Besides basic breaststroke, they are also taught how to stay safe in various situations.

Running a swimming class for 100 students requires 10-15 professional trainers, not to mention others for support, he said. On average, 2,500-3,000 students finish a swimming course every school term, he said.

In District 1 the program is funded by the government and private sources, and Hai said the center provides the lessons for free.

Despite the challenges, schools try their best to provide their students with swimming lessons.

For instance, the Nguyen Binh Khiem-Cau Giay school in Hanoi has rented a nearby swimming pool for its students to practice. The goal is for every student who finishes primary school to know how to swim.

Hoa said: “We’ve done so for the last 15 years. There are also parents who don’t want their children to learn to swim, and we have to persuade them.”

Van Cong Thu, a physical exercise teacher at the Dong La secondary school in Hanoi’s Hoai Duc District, said schools in the city have been provided with mobile pools since 2019, and those who do not get them collaborate with local pools.

The Covid-19 pandemic in the past two years severely disrupted swimming lessons, and Thu is trying to revive them before the upcoming summer vacations.

Thu’s school also has to rely on parents’ financial contributions to be able to afford swimming lessons. A typical swimming course costs VND400,000-500,000 ($17.42-21.78), only a sixth of the fees charged by schools in downtown areas. But many parents refuse, saying they live near lakes and rivers and could teach their children swimming themselves.

Thu warned that improper swimming training would fail to teach children how to respond to real-life situations and could lead to mishaps.

Drowning is among the leading causes of death for children aged two to 15 in Vietnam, with around 2,000 dying every year, according to the Department of Children’s Affairs.

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