Schoolgirl drowning shocks SwimSA

2009-01-26 00:00

The body governing water sports in the country has expressed shock that the number of pupils, who were in the pool when a grade one pupil drowned to death at Bisley Primary on Thursday last week, far exceeded internationally set teacher-pupil ratio standards.

“Yes we want our children to learn how to swim, but we don’t want them to die in the process,” said Easlyn Young, manager of SwimSA’s Learn to Swim initiative, regarding the tragic death of seven-year-old Akhona Mbhense.

The comment came shortly after KZN Education MEC Ina Cronjé visited Akhona’s school to discuss her drowning with the principal, her classmates and the media.

On Friday, The Witness reported that Akhona’s body was sighted at the bottom of the Bisley Primary’s swimming pool during a swimming lesson, which was supervised by three teachers. When her body was recovered they tried in vain to resuscitate her.

What was especially shocking to Young was the fact that there were 70 pupils in the pool and only three teachers supervising them at the time of the drowning. She said that accredited swimming instructors would know that the recommended ratio for swimming lessons is one teacher to ten pupils. “It is our standard as the water sports governing body of this country. We’ve set our standards based on international benchmarks,” she said.

Young said that under no circumstances should anybody conduct swimming lessons without being accredited to do so. “Teaching people how to swim without accreditation is like driving a car without a driver’s licence,” she said. “Schools are the custodians of all the children that attend.

It is their responsibility to assure that those teaching swimming are skilled and qualified.”

When questioned about the matter at yesterday’s meeting, Cronjé said that due to the ongoing police investigation, the department is not at liberty to comment. She added that the department will conduct their own investigation into the incident. “We do not want to jump the gun … We would not want to interfere in their investigation,” she said.

Cronjé said the department will assist the family with the funeral costs, and will also extend counselling services to Akhona’s grieving family.

She appealed to other schools to be extra careful during swimming lessons, “especially with new children”.

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