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Swimmers' challenge

Fred Wesley
Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE revelation that swimming classes are to be made compulsory in all schools around the country from Term Two onwards is interesting.

It is a positive development that is long overdue.

Given the fact that we are surrounded by the sea and we have rivers and streams criss-crossing our land mass, one would expect the majority of Fijians to be capable swimmers.

The unfortunate reality though is many of us can not swim, leave aside water safety issues.

Thus the directive by the Ministry of Education will be seen as a positive thing.

The ministry's acting permanent secretary Kelera Taloga said swimming classes in schools would be used as an extracurricular activity.

This, she said, was because of drowning cases.

"We've realised that it's about time that the ministry made it compulsory for all the schools to have swimming classes," Mrs Taloga said.

"We have a few schools that have swimming lessons but we think that it would only be fair if swimming class in schools is made compulsory."

The ministry realises it will not be able to do it alone and will need the support of parents and guardians to drive this initiative.

She said the Ministry of Education would also make sure that schools had certified swimming instructors during classes.

And to cater for the classes, a portion of the grant money issued to schools annually could be diverted to pay for them.

One of the biggest challenges though is how schools will factor this requirement into their system.

For starters classes will have to be conducted in a controlled environment. That means pools.

How this will be factored into the program for schools outside major urban centres like Suva, Lautoka, Nadi and Labasa will be interesting. There may have to be some thinking outside the box required.

It's a challenge though for the ministry to consider.

At the national level, our stats aren't pleasant at all.

The Western Division accounted for 40 per cent of last year's drowning toll, which tallied to 47 lives, and economically cost Fiji a potential $5.6million.

A graph provided by the Water Safety Council of Fiji recently showed the biggest percentage of incidents in the division happened in February, with 68 per cent of drownings happening on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

Of the drownings that happened in the Western Division, 58 per cent happened in inland waterways, including rivers and creeks, and 42 per cent took place in the sea.

The council noted that from the drowning toll, 86 per cent were iTaukei and 14 per cent were tourists, with a male to female ratio of 3:2.

Clearly we have before us a massive challenge. The important thing though is to ensure our children learn to swim and appreciate water safety issues.

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