In a valiant effort to reduce drownings on the West Coast, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) will be conducting water safety classes for children in Swartland, Bergrivier, Cedarberg, Saldanah and Matzikama.
This massive geographical area covers 126 schools, with more than 62 000 children who will be taught in a 3-year period.
Drowning is a major cause of accidental death in South Africa, and the most statistically vulnerable are children between the ages of 5-14 who live in remote and rural areas. The NSRI has started its WaterSafety Initiative to reduce theses drowning statistics, and is currently searching for a WaterSafety Instructor to visit schools from Malmesbury to Lutzville.
Sea Rescue believes that if the youth are empowered with valuable life skills, from basic WaterSafety education to HandsON CPR, as well as building confidence in their own ability to help a friend in danger in water, fewer water-related incidents will result in fatal drownings.
NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson said the reality is that children in rural areas are mostly unsupervised when they are near water. “It is often hot and there are few activities to amuse them. They don’t always have access to cell phones and the distance from medical assistance is significant. These children need to know how to get each other out of trouble and how to call for appropriate help,” he said.
While there are a number of ‘learn to swim’ programs on offer, NSRI is acutely aware that even children who can swim drown. There is a very real need for public education regarding basic water safety. The non-profit rescue service believes that by offering their Water Safety program to youth at risk in South Africa, the youngsters will be empowered with life skills as well as a sense of pride and value in their community.
More than 1.6-million children between the ages of 5-14 have been taught basic water safety skills and what to do in a water emergency. There are now have 16 instructors who are based from Soweto to Khayelitsha, as well as from Port St Johns to Ceres. Each instructor reaches around 22 000 children a year with the team teaching 360 000 children last year.
Sea Rescue’s WaterSafety education is working exceptionally well in Ceres, Worcester, Tulbagh and surrounds, and will continue to expand this program to the West Coast in the coming months in the hope that drowning statistics can be reduced.