Gleeful giggles and the sound of splashing water fill the air in the Sirajganj village of
In an enclosed section of a village pond, Sumaiya Akhter, 7, and her friends learn to swim from a trainer who is in the water with them, going over the finer points of a good stroke.
The sight is a relief in a country where drowning is the leading cause of child death.
One may ask how tiny Pal Para village in Raiganj upazila, a hamlet of potters amid Sirajganj’s famed communities of weavers, came to host a community swimming class.
The answer is that swimming lessons form part of the Center for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh’s (CIPRB) assault on Bangladesh’s grim child drowning statistics.
SwimSafe, run in collaboration with the Royal Life Saving Society Australia and The Alliance for Safe Children, is a Unicef-funded programme.
The CIPRB says they have trained around 70,000 people to swim this year alone. Since the programme began in 2005, some 500,000 people have been taught this crucial skill.
“This year we trained some 550 swimming trainers, of whom 60% are women. This was a big challenge for us,” Aminur Rahman, director of the CIPRB’s International Drowning Research Centre-Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune.
He said the number of child drownings in the area had significantly been reduced.
The organisation teaches children aged between four and ten years how to swim and how to rescue a drowned child, completely free of cost.
In Raiganj’s Dhangara village children are seen busy learning to swim in a fenced-in section of a pond designated for swimming lessons.
Sohag Hossain, a swimming coach, says he enjoys teaching swimming and appreciates the extra pocket money it provides.
A first year graduate student, Sohag says everyone in Simla village is now aware of the importance of learning how to swim. They are especially aware of the importance of teaching children how to swim.
He said: “I make a good amount of money working on this project. Like me, many students are taking this opportunity to earn some money while serving the community.”
The CIPRB also teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a lifesaving technique that is useful in emergencies such as heart attacks or near drownings.
Even children are being taught CPR on a small-scale basis as part of a pilot project. Fourth-grader Barsha Aktar Mou demonstrated CPR and showed how to save a drowning person.
“I was not really eager to learn this but the doll used for training is very nice. It got me interested in learning CPR before I knew what it was,” Mou says.
“I have a younger brother. There are two ponds in front of my house so I have taught my parents how to perform CPR. I also know about first aid,” she adds.
The CIPRB’s Aminur said: “We have provided CPR training to 1,200 children aged between 7 and 9 years. Interestingly, the success rate has been 80%.”