Vietnam is one of the countries which have the highest percentages of drowning in the world. Therefore, MOET in 2010 requested primary schools all over the country to teach swimming in a trial period of 2010-2015. Fourth graders would be the main learners, while the third and fifth graders are also welcome to swimming lessons.
Children in waterways areas also die of drowning
According to the Ministry of Health, drowning is the biggest reason behind the deaths of children and the second biggest reason behind the deaths of adults. Drowning is the cause of the death of 22.6 percent of the dead children, just after the traffic accidents (26.7 percent). On average, 7000 Vietnamese children die every year, 50 percent of whom die of drowning.
According to Tran Thi Ngoc Lan, a senior official of the Ministry of Health, the highest percentage of the death of drowning can be seen in the group of children aged 0-4 (19/100,000 children per annum).
Nguyen Trong An from the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said that not only the children in big cities, but in the Mekong River Delta, also die of drowning, mostly because they cannot swim.
Learning to swim on… paper
The request by MOET in 2010 has not been fulfilled by schools over the last two years. Ngu Duy Anh, Director of the Students’ Affairs Department under MOET, also admitted that Vietnam has not gone far in the implementation of the plan on teaching swimming.
There are not enough swimming pools to teach swimming to students, especially the ones in big cities. There are also not enough swimming teachers: though there are physical training teachers at every school, but not all of them have been trained to train swimming.
Headmaster of a primary school in Cau Giay district in Hanoi frankly said that her school cannot implement the plan on teaching swimming because it does not have necessary conditions. It takes hundreds of millions of dong to build a swimming pool, which is unaffordable to the school which still lacks classrooms and material facilities.
Meanwhile, MOET cannot prop up the money for the schools to build swimming pools of their own, because this would require a huge sum of money.
Bui Thi Van Anh, Head of the Cau Giay district’s education sub-department, said that no school in the district has its own swimming pool. Meanwhile, there is only one public pool for the local residents. Therefore, it proves to be unfeasible to implement the swimming teaching plan.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
Headmasters of general schools all have said the plan on teaching swimming to students has been applauded by parents, who say they would pay additional money, so that the schools can organize swimming lessons.
In Hanoi, many schools are planning to bring students to swimming pools to attend swimming lessons. However, they still have not found out any reasonable solution for vehicle, teacher and timetable arrangement. That explains why Hanoi, a big city, still has not released any document guiding the teaching of swimming at primary schools.
Anh from MOET said though the ministry requests schools to push up the activities to prevent the drowning, it cannot punish the schools, if they cannot implement the plan, because the ministry well understands the difficulties the schools are facing.