Friday, 24 June 2011

Swimming lessons: a life-long vaccination against drowning

An extremely hectic but also very satisfying (and, for me personally, unbearably hot and sweaty) monsoon week in Dhaka and in the field as European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and German Development Minister Niebel visited Bangladesh.

Today was more relaxed, and I was able to visit swimming lessons in Dhaka together with Dr. Aminur Rahman, Director of CIPRB's specialized department for anti-drowning research, the International Drowning Research Centre. I even joined the kids during their swimming class, see the pictures below. It was amazing to see how children can be taught to survive, and many even to swim quite well, in just 12 half-hour sessions. (text continues below the pictures) 

4 boys, 4 girls, 1 male and 1 female instructor. The instructors have received excellent training from CIPRB. The movable pool is a nice size: 12,5 x 6 m. The construction behind us houses the pump and filter. The pool is situated in the playground of a primary school.

A lot of fun swimming together!
Remarkable: all children can swim front crawl after only 12 sessions, starting from zero: putting just their faces in the water -  clearly the instruction must be very efficient.
The fact that in this pool boys and girls were being taught together with the agreement of their parents was a pleasant surprise for me.
A movable pool as shown in the pictures is really not so expensive: the complete set up, i.e. pool, pump, enclosure, etc. costs about 5000 euros and can serve appr. 1000 children per year, for several years. Salaries for instructors and consumables such as pool chemicals and electricity for the pump cost appr. 400 euros per months. Swimming lessons are even much cheaper in rural areas, where extensive bamboo constructions in fish ponds can be made for appr. 100 euros, although they do not serve as many kids and last only a year. It is clear that a little money goes a long way in this country. And Dr. Rahman and I agreed that swimming lessons should really be considered as a 'vaccination against drowning'.

As if to underline the necessity of action against child drowning, today the Daily Star published two drowning cases, a 10-year old and a 3-year old, reported in today's newspapers, see here. Two sad illustrations of the 50 daily child victims of drowning in Bangladesh.

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