The National Sea Rescue Institute has launched a survival swimming centre that aims to teach school children how to swim.
NSRI Drowning Prevention Manager, Andrew Ingram, explained that understanding the context of drowning and its impact on the socio-economic climate in South Africa makes it essential that every child should learn how to swim.
"Not only does it teach the child essential water safety skills, but it equips them with a skill that may one day save their life or the life of their peers," he said.
So far, the centre has provided 2067 swimming lessons to Meiring Primary School learners. These lessons were taught over 15 operational days after the centre arrived at the school.
Ingram said the first phase of this project is being tested at Riebeek Kasteel, and it has been well received by the school and the community at large.
"This SSC is a twelve-metre shipping container which features a six-meter-long swimming pool inside it. We are currently teaching all the Grade 7 learners from the school and the urgency to teach them is because they are about to leave primary school for high school. We strongly believe that equipping this grade with swimming skills is essential since they are about to enter their next chapter of their schooling," he said.
Headmaster at Meiring Primary School, Brenton Cupido, said words could not describe what the centre is doing for the learners.
"These lessons will not only change the lives of the children, but also of their families and peers. They now have water safety skills that will never be taken away from them," he added.
According to Ingram, it has been an interesting and heartfelt process, not only for the children, but also for the swimming instructors.
"Seeing how the children’s eyes light up once they realise that they can float and control their breathing in water has been incredible," he said.
During the official opening of the centre, the first 11 Meiring Primary school children were awarded certificates after they mastered the fundamentals of how to hold their breath under water, open their eyes whilst under water and how to float and to safely propel themselves for at least five meters in the water.
Ingram said another interesting observation had been that girl learners were more cautious around water as opposed to their male counterparts, who showed less caution.
"This could be because boys tend to play more in and around dams," Ingram said.
"We are extremely grateful to the people and companies to helped with the prototype of the SSC. Our next SSC 2 is currently being built, and it will be placed in the Eastern Cape, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. Both these provinces have high drowning statistics. We hope to create a swimming culture in both Provinces," Ingram said.