With schools now closed for summer breaks amidst the rising temperature, children often like to jump into the water to cool down. They have so much fun playing in the water that they forget about the heat and the fatigue. However, focusing only on having fun in the water may have fatal effects.
Last February, before the curious students go on summer breaks, World Vision Foundation of Thailand’s (WVFT) Si Rattana project in Sisaket province organised basic swimming lessons for grade 1-3 students. The lessons are conceived to arm children with the skills to protect themselves from drowning, like lifejackets that can save their lives in critical moments. Attendees totalled 162 children together with 28 parents from 4 schools, namely Ban Nong Ping Pong School, Ban Sueang Khao School, Ban Krawan School and Ban Chan Bua School. The lessons are taught by Mr Boonrit Teerattanawitcha, a swimming and aquatic lifesaving instructor.
The lessons equipped children with the techniques to safely play in the water, such as holding their breath under water, floating in the water both independently and by using commonly available materials such as plastic water bottle or buoyant balls. Teaching children to swim involved training them the simple strokes like doggie paddle and other basic techniques. It’s also about knowing the survival techniques through Shouting, Reaching and Throwing method.
• Shouting for help and shouting to alert the drowning victim that help is on the way.
• Throwing buoyant objects for the victim to stay afloat or hold on to.
• Reaching out to the victims by extending long-length objects like a stick or rope for them to hold onto, then pulling them to the shore. The rescuer will need to learn to stand in a steady posture while performing the rescue.
• Moreover, children also acquired the skills to correctly perform first aid, for example turning the victim sideways for water to drain from their airway. If the victim is not breathing, CPR is to be performed. Since the brain is deprived of oxygen during respiratory failure, the longer the person stops breathing, the worse the damage to the brain. If the breathing has stopped more than 3 minutes, it may lead to death.
Thanaporn or Gam, a second grade student said after the training, “I’m excited and glad that I’ve joined the swimming lessons and learnt ways to help others.”
The basic swimming stroke that every child can do is doggie paddle. It may not be the standard technique, but the parents unanimously agreed that ‘even if you’re paddling like a dog, you won’t drown and you’ll survive. It makes us less worried when our children go play somewhere out of sight.”
Despite knowing how to swim or float in the water, “Don’t play around too much. Don’t go out and play in the water alone. Don’t go to where the water is deep or turbulent. And don’t prank your friends near the water because it can cause harm. Most importantly, stay calm if you or someone else is drowning. Using wrong rescue methods can cause greater harm to the victim,” reiterated Mr Boonrit before the training ended.
In 2016, WVFT organised a similar activity in Sangkha project area, Surin province. It saw some 920 children from grade 3 – 6 learning to swim and keeping themselves safe when in the water. The lessons support the Ministry of Public Health’s initiative to immune children from drowning, which is among its top strategic priorities in Surin province.
Incidentally, The Bureau of Non-Communicable Diseases, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health revealed that ‘drowning’ is the number 1 cause of death in Thai children below 15 years of age. In the last 10 years (2007-2016), some 10,156 Thai children died from drowning. And in 2016 alone, an estimated 699 children died from drowning nationwide. Most drowning incidents take place from March to May every year in natural water settings. The northeastern region reports the highest rate of child drowning, which contradicts the common belief that the region has few water settings to lure children due to it experiencing frequent droughts.