JOHOR BARU: The National Water Activity Safety Council (NWSC) supports the idea of introducing swimming classes in both primary and secondary schools, council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said.
“It is a good idea since drowning cases often involve students and teenagers, especially during the school holidays,” he said when contacted.
Lee said what was more worrying was that about half of the victims were those who tried to save other children from drowning and to compound the matter, some of those who survived suffered from brain damage.
However, he said the NWSC was not sure whether the Government could make swimming lesson compulsory due to a lack of facilities such as swimming pools and certified instructors in rural areas.
“It is up to the Government to make swimming and water safety compulsory for all children in Malaysia but they need to get feedback from all stakeholders.
“While waiting for the implementation of the idea, I believe that we need to intensify water activity safety awareness programmes on all fronts, including in schools,” said Lee.
He said that some schools, including premier and international schools, were now offering swimming lessons but it would be difficult for those that did not have the appropriate facilities.
“What they can do is to inculcate the occupational and safety health culture in their schools, which, among others, involves teaching staff and students the dangers of drowning and ways to avoid being a victim,” Lee added.
He also said the country needed more certified instructors in order to conduct swimming classes at the more than 10,000 schools with more than five million students nationwide.
Lee said on average, about 700 cases of drowning were reported in the country each year, meaning about two people died in bodies of water every day.
He said looking at the frequent drowning deaths in various parts of Malaysia, it could be said that such cases were quite alarming and most were due to bad attitudes.
“We have many beaches, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and water theme parks in the country that draw hordes of local and foreign visitors but many of us, especially parents, are unaware of the hazards posed by these bodies of water,” Lee said.
He stressed that the public must understand and heed the warnings given by the authorities.
He said, for example, a white flag flying at the lifeguard tower on the beach would mean sea conditions were safe for swimming and water activities while a red flag warned visitors to steer clear of the water.
“Sadly, some beach-goers or picnickers just ignore the warnings or are not aware of it,” Lee said.