WHO urges mandatory swimming, rescue subjects in PH schools

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2019 12:09 AM

Visitors cool off from the summer heat along the Marikina River in Rodriguez, Rizal on May 21, 2018. Only a few weeks are left for most students as classes in most schools are set to begin on June 4. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The World Health Organization (WHO) wants the inclusion of mandatory swimming and rescue subjects in the Philippines’ K-12 school curriculum.

The move according to Dr. Caroline Lukaszyk, WHO consultant and regional data coordinator for violence & injury prevention, seeks to teach youth with swimming and survival skills to combat the problem of drowning.

“In fact, we had a consensus meeting with the Philippines. In fact, the Education (department) did request that. At the moment there is no water safety in school curriculum,” Lukaszyk told ABS-CBN News.

WHO classifies drowning as the third major cause of unintentional death in the world, and the second among children in low-and-middle-income-countries.

WHO data placed fatal drowning victims at 322,000 worldwide but the information does not include those of at least 66 countries.

The number equates to one fatal drowning every 90 seconds.

In WHO-gathered data in 2016, the Philippines recorded 3,202 fatal drowning victims.

Lukaszyk said they strongly support swimming and life-saving subjects in schools worldwide.

In Norway, the government encourages children as young as 4 years old to start taking swimming lessons to protect them against possible drowning.

According to Atty. Claire Ann Alfonso, president of the Norwegian Lifesaving Society, a law created in 2015 also mandates every child to undergo swimming lessons until grade four in Norway.

From Grades 5 to 10, the training will be elevated into rescue or life-saving techniques.

“We do the test to see if have they learned what they’re supposed to learn. In that matter, we developed it. It’s not just the swimming ability, they do life-saving concept of it. They have to be, by 10th grade, they would be doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation),” Alfonso explains.

In Durban, South Africa, the government requires the regular patrolling of lifeguards in beaches.

Rescue teams use drones to check on the status of beachgoers.

“They check randomly. Whether midnight to morning through the day. There are people checking,” Ethekwini municipality water safety coordinator Rocky Randall said.

In Bangladesh, where experts record 9 fatal drowning incidents every day, children are now being trained to swim in ponds transformed into improvised pools.

Dr. May Ann Sta. Lucia of the Philippines’ Department of Health emphasized how various government agencies in the country should work together in educating the people about the dangers of drowning, seconded by its introduction of programs to protect the public about the threat of this “silent killer.”
 
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said swimming is included in the list of sports that students can enroll along with boxing, gymnastics and others. The problem, however, is that not all local government units have pool facilities while DepEd for its part, has no funds to support such need.

“Gawing extensive 'yan (swimming) 'saka kailangan selective. Kasi there are local governments and places where they don’t need it anymore because lifestyle nila yun e. It has to be selective kasi we don’t have the facilities. We don’t have the finances. It has to be in places where there are no swimming pools,” briones says.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, suggested that schools may address their lack of swimming pool facilities with the help of the private sector.

“Schools can collaborate with local government units, government agencies, non-profit and civil society organizations, and even businesses to conduct skills-training activities. Activities like these can be done in the same way we equip students with the skills and readiness for disasters like fires and earthquakes,” Gatchalian said.