AS HEARTLINES, drug A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO GET SOUTH AFRICANS TALKING ABOUT VALUES, viagra gains momentum, Karien Jonckheere looks at how Swimming South Africa is fulfilling its responsibility to children with its “Every Child A Swimmer” programme.

One of the most harrowing scenes Easlyn Young has had to experience is standing on a river bank in northern KwaZulu-Natal with two devastated parents after all five of their children had just drowned in a river.

It’s the type of scenario that motivates Young and her team at Swimming South Africa to put all their energy and passion into achieving the organisation’s Learn to Swim programme’s motto of “Every child a swimmer”. Young believes the programme, that began 10 years ago, is fulfilling not only a social responsibility in teaching children how to swim but also meeting a basic human right.
“Within our national strategy we need to address the needs of the nation to learn to swim. That is our responsibility as Swimming South Africa,” she said.

“And that responsibility is enshrined within the bill of rights for children as declared by the United Nations. It is the responsibility of all those in authority to see that a child is clothed, sheltered, healthy and protected. So we need protect our children within an open water environment.”

How this is done is that among others, unemployed youth and unemployed mothers are recruited by Swimming SA accredited instructors. They are then taught to swim and trained as instructors themselves in order to be able to then teach children in their area.
“We are partnering with various groupings of government and business to be able to remunerate people for the services rendered to the community,” explained Young.

“We have three main programmes. The one is Ocean Splash where we have instructors at the ocean to teach children how to use the ocean safely. We have Pool Splash where we put instructors in the swimming pool to teach children. And then we have Rural Splash where we teach swimming in rivers, lakes and dams, because in some parts of the country children need to cross rivers just to get to school.

“Learn to Swim essentially sees to the need for public standards assurance so that people who are going to teach children are properly trained and qualified to do that. And then the mission of Learn to Swim is to make every child a swimmer because it is their right.”
The Learn to Swim initiative is run in partnership with the Department of Water Affairs and Young is also looking to begin working in conjunction with the Department of Health.

“The health department has statistics with regards to obesity among children and it’s largely because they are inactive, just sitting and watching TV,” reckoned Young.

“So this programme is also important in terms of taking responsibility within the context of a child’s health.
“The exciting thing about it is that swimming allows for early motor coordination development without injury and it is about the best form of exercise to develop cardio-vascular performance, particularly in the case of children who are asthmatic. With good motor coordination and cardiovascular performance you have all the makings of a potential champion.”

It is this attitude that Young would like to instill in all her instructors – that they may just be teaching the next Roland Schoeman or Penny Heyns to swim.

And with the programme having reached a massive 100 000 children nationwide just last year thanks to the backing of Telkom (with every province having a local liaison officer), there are plenty of potential champions in the making. Even if they don’t turn out to be superstars though, at least they will be safe from drowning. – Heartlines Features

Written by Heartlines

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