Drowning deaths of children continue to haunt Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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A free swimming class in Hanoi. Photo credit: Hanoi Youth Union A free swimming class in Hanoi. Photo credit: Hanoi Youth Union

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Local residents found the bodies of three children in a reservoir in Nghe An Province Sunday, including two siblings and their cousin.
The victims were identified as Tran Thanh Trung, 11, his sister Tran Thu Huong, 6, and Tran Viet Hung, 10, who had apparently gone swimming there.
The tragedy is the latest in a never-ending saga. Statistics from the Department of Child Care and Protection show an average of nine children drown every day in Vietnam while swimming is not effectively taught in schools.
Dang Hoa Nam, the department’s director, said many children went swimming in the hot weather of the past months but they were not equipped with safe swimming skills.
“Some construction sites were also responsible for not putting up barriers and warning signs.”
A recent survey by the department found only 35 percent of children in the Mekong Delta and 10 percent in the Red River Delta can swim.
“With such low rates of children who can swim, drowning risks are high,” Nam said.
Funding difficulties
The Ministry of Education and Training drafted a plan in 2010 to teach swimming in schools to prevent drowning deaths of children.
All provinces were instructed to trial swimming programs in primary schools by 2015, particularly for third, fourth and fifth grade students.
However, few have managed to implement the plan, primarily due to a shortage of swimming pools.
Duong Van Ba, a ministry official, said the focus was then shifted to attracting investment from the private sector.
“However, it costs VND800 million (US$36,000) to build a small swimming pool and not many schools raised the investment.”
Existing swimming pools should cooperate with schools and earmark a certain time for training students, he said.
Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Hong Lam said proper pools are not needed for swimming courses.
“Schools can use canvas to make makeshift pools, or set up nets in rivers.”

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