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9 August, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Learning to Swim

Sheikh Iraj
Learning to Swim

Swimming is a relaxing, joyful activity with many health benefits. Besides being a lifesaving skill, it helps us to stay physically fit. Nowadays, the number of deaths caused by drowning in our country has become quite alarming. According to newspaper reports, more than 25 children and youths have been reported dead from drowning so far this year. In reality, the number is likely far more as many drowning deaths remain unreported.  

Syed Imtiaz Ahmed, a children protection officer of UNICEF Bangladesh, told Y&I: “Drowning is the second leading cause of child death in our country and it is extremely important that we work on this issue. A joint survey was done by us and the government a few years back. The report indicates that every year around 17,000 to 18,000 children are dying by drowning each year in Bangladesh. One of our swimming programmes ended last year through which we taught swimming to more than half a million children. We are hopeful that in the future we will start another swimming instruction programme.”

Dr Saidur Rahman Mashreky, director of Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB), said: “According to Bangladesh Health and Injury Survey 2016, which was jointed conducted by us and the government, we have found 19,200 fatal drowning cases. Out of them, 16,000 were children. We also found 1.44 million non-fatal drowning cases, which could have easily gone the other way. Now the big question is what we are doing to combat this situation. First, we are conducting research programmes which help us understand the psychological problem associated with reporting a drowning case. We have taught swimming to 600,000 students, UNICEF Bangladesh funded the programme.”

“The government is soon expected to announce a drowning prevention strategy. It has taken time because changing people’s perceptions is not that easily. For example, non-communicable disease control is supervised by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). It is the responsibility of DGHS to prevent or come up with a solution for this problem as drowning is a form of injury which causes so many deaths. We have started some daycare centres, where (working) mothers are able to keep their children. One of our research shows that the rate of drowning among children staying in daycares drops by 88 percent.  Our research point to two solutions _ one is the establishment of daycare centres in rural areas, and the second is to learn swimming. Right now, many organisations are interested to work in daycare projects. But we have seen that when funding for a project stops, somehow, many of us stop working with that project, which should not be the case,” Dr Mashreky added.

Then there are some schools, colleges and universities that encourage their students to learn swimming.  Singapore School Kinderland (SSK) is one of them.

Kanta Saadat, director of operations, SSK, said: “Our students learn swimming at the Cadet College Club. We select children who are at least five years old. At the moment, about 100 students are learning to swim. During winter, most of the swimming facilities are closed, so we organise our swimming programme in the summer. Our students not only learn how to swim, they also learn how swimming can be a lifesaving skill, how swimming is a wonderful form of physical exercise. They learn about teamwork as well. Some parts of our curriculum also inform students about the benefits of swimming.”

Tahmid Adnan, 14, a student of class-8 at the school, loves to swim. “I find swimming to be really exciting. I lost some weight after learning how to swim and swimming makes me happy,” he told this correspondent.  

Reza E Rabbi, a Scout leader at Sunnydale School, said: “Many students of our school are learning to swim. We want all our students to know how to swim as we understand its importance. That is why we are soon going to notify all the parents that they should teach their children swimming at any swimming facility they like. Parents and students might have different opinions when it comes to swimming facilities. Keeping this in mind, we do not force them to learn or practise swimming at any particular place. Normally, we urge students who are five to eight years old to learn swimming.”

Jamiul Adnan, 23, a student of Dhaka University (DU), practises swimming at the university’s swimming pool. “I learned to swim at the DU swimming pool. It is one of the best places to learn and practise swimming in our capital. I do not remember the exact amount I paid for admission, but without a doubt, the DU swimming facility is less costly compared to other facilities.”

Muhammad Shahjahan Ali, deputy director of Dhaka University’s Physical Education Centre, added: “Since February this year, we have taught swimming to 3,600 people and most of them were youths. Children who are at least eight years old can apply to learn swimming. We have one swimming pool and one diving pool. These days, so many people are coming to learn swimming that we are not able to accommodate all of them. There was a time when we used to give advertisements in newspapers, but now we do not need to publicise. It costs Taka 2,010 per person to learn swimming, while Dhaka University students can learn and practise swimming by paying only Tk 100.  We also provide a discount to BUET students, they can learn by paying Tk 1,000.”

Bangladesh Swimming Federation (BSF), located at Mirpur-2, is another popular place in the city where people of all ages go for swimming. Panuk Biswas, beginners’ pool manager at BSF, told the reporter: “Every month, 100 people on average come to us to learn swimming. There are some schools that send their students to us to learn swimming. Right now, more than 30 students of Cosmo School are learning swimming at our Syed Nazrul Islam National Swimming Complex. Besides students, many professional swimmers practise at the Swimming Federation.”

“A couple of years ago, we organised a talent hunt programme where 1,200 swimmers were initially selected from all over the country. After going through a number of competitions and a selection process, we finally selected 60 swimmers. They regularly practise in our pools. It costs Taka 3,000 per head to learn swimming, and if anyone wants to continue, he or she has to pay Taka 2,000 per month,” Biswas added.

M Abdullah, joint secretary of BSF, said: “At the moment, due to a technical problem, we are not able to use the beginners’ pool, but we are hopeful we will be able to fix the problem within a few days. We have informed the National Sports Council (NSC) about the matter.”

On August 16, our national swimming team is going to participate in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Two swimmers are going to represent Bangladesh in this grand competition. M Mahfizur Rahman, 26, is one of them. He told this reporter over the phone: “Khadiza Akter and I are going to represent the country in the upcoming Asian Games. I have been associated with swimming for a long time now. Khadiza Akter is a relatively newcomer, she was selected through the talent hunt competition. She is going to participate in her first-ever overseas competition. We were selected about five months ago, but the practice camp started only a month before the competition. We wanted the camp to start earlier so we could prepare better. I truly believe we need to create awareness among our youths about drowning and how knowing swimming can save one’s life.”

Besides being a lifesaving skill, swimming is also an excellent form of exercise because when we swim, we have to use most of our muscles. This helps to burn a lot of energy or calories.

Ziauddin Bablu, 28, works as a teacher at a coaching centre. He recently learned to swim and it helped him to get physically fit. “After my SSC (secondary school) exams, I didn’t really take part in any form of sports and I am a foodie. I gained a lot of weight due to that. Then one of my friends suggested I should give swimming a try and I did. I was surprised to see the positive result. It’s not that I lost a lot of weight or anything, but I have become more physically fit. I learned swimming in the Turag River with the help of some youngsters who live nearby.”

Under Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s ‘Search and Rescue Training Programme’, their volunteers learn swimming. Red Crescent Society informed Y&I: “We have more than 700,000 volunteers in Bangladesh. About 40 percent of them can swim. Knowing how to swim is one of the components of the Search and Rescue Training Programme. We teach our volunteers not only to swim, but also how to save someone who is drowning. In flood-prone areas, we always see a number of drowning cases. In such areas, we teach our volunteers how to make improvised rafts, how to use the blow-line method and the lifesaving knot to save a drowning person. We also teach them first aid on what to do after they rescue a drowning person. We understand the importance of knowing how to swim as we work in places where we come across a number of drowning cases.”  

“If you are a Scout and want to win awards like the Shapla Cub Award, the President’s Scout Award or the prestigious President’s Rover Scout Award, then you need to know how to swim,” said M Golam Mostafa, director of Community and Health, Bangladesh Scouts. “I believe most of the children living in villages know how to swim, but the same cannot be said about children who live in the cities. We encourage and help young Scouts to learn swimming. Our Scouts who live in the capital learn swimming at Ivy Rahman Swimming Pool, Dhaka University Swimming Pool, and Syed Nazrul Islam National Swimming Complex. They have to pay Taka 1,500 for their swimming lessons. In our curriculum, we teach our Scouts about the importance of swimming.”

“Every year, we conduct a test to monitor the swimming skills of Scouts who are eligible for awards. Students who study in schools and colleges which are under the supervision of Bangladesh Navy get to learn and enjoy swimming at the Navy Headquarters swimming pool. When we conduct the swimming test, we make sure firefighters and experts swimmers are present at the scene, as we do not want any accidents,” Mostafa added.    

Aminul Islam, a swimming organizer, said: “There are 60 registered swimming clubs in different districts of our country. But most of them are not active. They train youths in nearby ponds and rivers. These clubs also work with Bangladesh Swimming Federation in finding new talents. We all know about the drowning situation in our country. We need more trainers and pools to combat the problem. It seems we only talk about swimming when someone has drowned or our swimmers have done well in some competition, which should not be the case. We need to inspire teachers and parents so they can motivate the children.”

There a number of public and private swimming facilities in Dhaka that let people of different age groups to learn and enjoy swimming.

Bangladesh Women Sports Federation, located inside Sultana Kamal Mahila Complex at Dhanmondi, offers swimming lessons to women. Shampa Roy, executive officer of the Federation, said: “Every month, we receive about 250 new members who want to learn swimming. Here, one has to pay Taka 2,500 to use our swimming facility.”

Abid Hossain, pool supervisor at Officers Club Dhaka, informed Y&I: “Anyone can apply to learn swimming in our pool. On average, we receive 90 students every month who come to learn swimming. It costs Taka 5,000 per person to participate in our swimming programme. Both girls and boys learn swimming in different shifts. Our beginners’ swimming course is for 16 days.”

Cadet College Club offers swimming lessons to schoolchildren, but they must be referred by one of the club members. Swimming instructor M Hafez informed that it costs Taka 4,600 per person to learn swimming in the club’s pool at Gulshan.  

Shanaz Begum, manager of the health club at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, told this reporter: “Children who are at least six years old can learn swimming in our swimming pools. Every month, more than 10 children and a number of youths join our swimming programme. It costs Taka 17,500 for swimmers who are under 12 years old, and those above 12 have to pay Taka 21,500.” 

Photos: Courtesy, File.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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