Record child drownings bring call for action
HCM CITY (VNS)— The unusually large number of children drowning in Viet Nam every year underscores the importance of providing early swimming lessons, but the task faces several constraints, experts and officials say.
In HCM City, 26 children drowned in the first nine months of the year, twice as many as last year, according to the Children's Protection and Care Bureau under the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
Compared to developing countries, the number of children dying of drowning in Viet Nam is 10 times higher, a Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) report said, citing the Children's Protection and Care Bureau in Ha Noi.
Two years ago, the Ministry of Education and Training mandated schools nationwide to provide swimming lessons for third graders.
It also encouraged that swimming to be taught to fourth and fifth graders as an extra-curricular activity.
And under a sports development plan approved by the Prime Minister in 2010, all high schools would provide swimming lessons by 2020. However, officials say the target is difficult to reach, given the lack of capital, facilities and qualified teachers.
Huynh Cong Minh, head of the HCM City Aquatic Sports Association, said that the number of swimming pools in schools has increased five times compared to 10 years ago.
Currently, nearly 50 schools from kindergarten to high school levels had swimming pools, Minh said.
However, this number did not meet the requirements, especially for primary school students.
The city has taken full advantage of all swimming pools in the city to teach students, but still failed to meet demand, he said. As of now, the city has 40 primary schools, 69 secondary schools and 83 high schools teaching swimming, according to the municipal Department of Education and Training.
Nguyen Hoai Chuong, deputy head of the city's Department of Education and Training, said the city also lacked coaches.
Nguyen Thi Kim An, principal of the Tran Binh Trong Primary School in District 5, said it was difficult for them to meet the transportation costs for taking children to and from swimming pools elsewhere in the city.
Booking swimming pools was also difficult, An said, adding that her school has not yet provided swimming lessons because they have not been able to book any pool in the district.
Moreover, many parents refused to pay money for their children to learn swimming, she said.
"Because most of them are poor, they cannot afford the fee of about VND300,000 per student for each swimming course (which lasts two or three months)."
"Schools do not have enough money to rent swimming pools for the purpose," she said. — VNS