NSRI calls on education department to include water safety in school curriculum

The NSRI has called on the Basic Education Department to include water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of the school curriculum.

“Each year in South Africa there are approximately 1 500 fatal drownings of which 450 are children,” says NSRI spokesperson, Jessica Shelver. Drowning is a leading cause of child mortality with about a third of the fatal drownings being children under the age of 14.

On average, more than one child drowns every day. “The vast majority of these deaths could and should have been prevented. Schools play a pivotal role in preventing drowning through water safety and education. Yet many schools across South Africa do not teach basic water safety skills.”

“The NSRI, ahead of the first United Nations World Drowning Prevention Day on the 25th July 2021, is calling on the National Minister of Basic Education and the nine Provincial MECs for Education to take active steps in ensuring that water safety is included in the Life Orientation curriculum, and that swimming and water safety training is a mandatory part of learner’s physical education to reduce drowning deaths and water related accidents,” she says.

The NSRI is urgently requesting the National Minister to take steps that will see water safety, swimming and first aid lessons introduced as part of school curriculum. A step that could save hundreds of children’s lives every year.

According to the United Nations, the world’s highest drowning rates are in Africa. South Africa accounts for a significant proportion of drowning deaths worldwide with more than a third occurring among children younger than 14 years. Drowning deaths in this age group have been reported to be higher in rural areas than in urban areas and this may be due to the high number of open areas of water in and near rural communities, including lakes and rivers.

“The unprecedented number of drowning incidents is a call for action to the South African government to make a national water safety education program for children an urgent priority”, said Jill Fortuin, NSRI Director of Drowning Prevention.

“The entire responsibility lies on parents and caregivers to ensure children are safe around water. But the reality is that for many families, swimming lessons and water safety education are not accessible due to cost, locality and lack of education.”

The NSRI are calling on all South Africans, and in particular parents and caregivers to sign this submission as a call to action to hold the South African Government and the Education Department accountable for their role in preventing these preventable deaths. Support the NSRI call by signing the petition on change.org “NSRI Call To ACTION to SA Government to include water safety as part of school curriculum”.