Every Child Must Learn how to Swim

By Ashwin Tombat
05 October 2019 02:25 IST

Apparently, Pernem Police have registered a case under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (causing death due to negligence) and Section 8 of Goa Children’s Act (for not ensuring a safe environment) against the Don Bosco boarding school in Tuem, its principal, as well as three teachers after four students drowned in an abandoned stone quarry.

The school organised a trek on Saturday 14 September for 40 students. Three teachers went with them. Some boys entered the water-filled quarry. Four of them went missing. Their bodies were found later. They had drowned.

There are differing versions about why the boys entered the water-filled quarry. Some media reports say they went for a swim. The Pernem Police say that the students were washing their feet when they slipped into the deep water. School staff members succeeded in rescuing two of the students.

This is a terrible tragedy. No parent should ever have to face the loss of a young child in this dreadful manner. But, if the school staff members rescued two of the students (obviously, at risk to their own lives), does it sound like ‘negligence’?

Let us cite a more common cause of accidental deaths in Goa – road accidents. As many as 328 people died in road accidents in 2017. The Goa Police proudly claimed that 21 per cent less deaths took place in 2018. That would make it approximately 260 deaths.

In just four months from January till April this year, 97 people died in road accidents. That is exactly as many as those who died from drowning in Goa over the past two years! But for deaths on the road, no matter how many there are, there is no outcry, no outrage…

Let me narrate the story of just one of these deaths.

One night earlier this year, Aloysius Alvares was on a motorbike with his wife. No street lighting and bad road bumps made it hard to see the road ahead on the highway (redevelopment works have left large sections of NH66 without street lights; the diversion roads are in terrible condition).

Because he couldn’t see clearly, Aloysius took off his helmet and handed it to his wife. Unfortunately, just a little later, the unlevelled road and lack of lighting caused a crash. He severely injured his head.

The 108-ambulance rushed them to the Mapusa District Hospital. Here, the doctors said they couldn’t treat a major head injury. The ambulance then drove him to the Goa Medical College (GMC). Over an hour-and-a-half was lost in this process. Shortly after he arrived at GMC, 28-year-old Aloysius succumbed to his injuries, leaving behind a 26-year-old widow.

Did the Police file a case of negligence against the PWD Chief Engineer and PWD Minister, for leaving large sections of the National Highway without street lights and for not ensuring that the diversion roads were of adequate quality to not cause accidents? Did it file a case of negligence against the SP (Traffic) and the Home Minister, for not ensuring that the PWD fulfils its duty? Did it file a case of negligence against the 108 Ambulance Service and the Paramedics who were on duty, for taking a case of serious head injury to a hospital that was not equipped to treat it…?

Had the students of Don Bosco been able to swim properly, they would not have drowned.

In a coastal state like Goa which, in addition to the sea, has hundreds of kilometres of inland waters, every child must be taught how to swim. It is a life skill, and must be made a part of the curriculum in schools.

Why should your child learn to swim? The most important reason is safety. As a life skill, swimming is something your child will retain for his or her entire life. Swimming is a physical activity for the entire body and mind. It imparts fitness for life, as well as improves longevity and the quality of life. Swimming is a no-impact workout that gives health without injuries. The earlier your child learns to swim, the more comfortable (s)he will be in the water.

Fencing quarries is impractical. It only benefits contractors, as well as the bureaucrats and politicians who award the contract. Filling quarries is unaffordable, in addition to the above.

In Goa, most cities have swimming pools. Nearly every village has a swimmable water body. Recruitment of swimming instructors will create gainful employment for locals. When children learn to swim, it will reduce non-tourist drowning deaths in addition to at least giving them a life skill and a means to lifelong physical fitness. For some, it could be a career.

The government must make swimming a part of the school curriculum.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Government Schools should have Swimming Pool same like Delhi. Every student swims in their School Swimming Pool. All students in Delhi Government Schools now knows to swim. Thanks To AK/AAP.

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 05 th October 2019 16:08

 

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