Swimming lessons will not stop drowning tragedies on their own

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The family of Le Phu Duong, one of the six 13-year-old children who drowned in the central province of Ninh Thuan on April 18, prepare for the burial of his body
PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

Last Thursday, six boys and girls, all aged 13, drowned when swimming in a river in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

The same day, two other students, who were both ten years old, also drowned when swimming in a river with their classmates in the central province of Ha Tinh.

The next day, it was reported that an 11-year-old girl drowned in a pond in a park in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, while she was playing there with her friends.

Three days, nine children dead.

If this sounds tragic, it is actually worse. Official figures say over 6,000 children drown every year in Vietnam and that the number keeps increasing year after year.

When accidents happen to children that seriously injure or even kill them, the question is not only about why and how they happened, but also about what to do to stop them from happening again in the future.

The answer to the latter question lies in both giving children a safe living environment and in teaching them how to recognize dangers and what to do when they are at risk.

It is often commented that Vietnamese children not being taught swimming is one of the main reasons for so many drowning accidents.

However, if waters are too deep and the current is too swift, there is very slight chance that one can survive, even if one is an adult who knows to swim.

So one of the most important things to do to protect the children is to teach them about the dangers, warn them of risks and tell them to stay away.

But, since the risks are still out there, children need to be told how to respond to situations, like when they get lost, suffer cramps or get bitten by a snake.

In fact, in the Ninh Thuan accident, one of two students who were with the victims said that at first one of them entered an area estimated to be about four-five meters deep in the river. Five others tried to rescue their friend, but in the end, all of them fell into the river.

It was only when their five friends also fell into the water that the two others rushed to find adults.  

The accident could have ended less tragically if one of the students immediately sought adults to help, or even screamed for help at the very beginning.

Even though all of us want to give our kids the safest possible environment and have them under our observation and care all the time, there are times we have to let them be on their own.

They, therefore, need to be prepared for every circumstance so that they can save not only their own lives, but also that of others.

On the other hand, authorities need to take measures to prevent accidents, starting with posting warning signboards and fences around deep lakes and rivers. It is also necessary to have lifeguards and guards in accident-prone areas.

It is the responsibility of everyone, each one of us, to do our part in ensuring that these tragic drowning accidents do not happen again.

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