Mekong Delta kids taught to swim on the cheap

Thanh Nien News

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Primary school teachers in the Mekong Delta's impoverished Dong Thap Province have been holding free swimming classes in the very rivers that routinely claim children's lives during the rainy season. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

Teachers from Hung Thanh 2 primary school in Thap Muoi District builds a swimming enclosure out of wood, bamboo and netting near a river bank. The class began in 2008 with support from the commune government.  

Children warm-up before class. Gymnastics teacher Nguyen Buu Trong said the first lessons teach children to stay afloat and swim to the nearest high ground. Eventually, they learn to swim across a small river or canal.  

First-timer crisis: Cao Thai Qui, 7, cries as he refuses to let go of a bamboo pole despite assurances from his instructors. 

A teacher splashes a cow to shoo it away. Makeshift as it looks, the class trains more than 200 new swimmers, every year. 

Teacher Nguyen Van Son (L) visits a local family to ask a mother to let her children join the class. 

These three students from previous classes matured into master swimmers. Teachers have tried to spark interest in the class by holding a final exam. Each graduate receives a diploma from the commune government plus VND20,000 (US$1), cookies and sweets. 

Teachers hold students above water as they teach them to paddle their arms and legs.

Each 4x10 meters area costs VND600,000 ($28) to build. The “pools” are enclosed around a shallow spot that allows the teachers to stand with their heads above water.  


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