ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 38

Survive and save

Police take students to water to teach them lessons of life

By Isuri Kaviratne

Building a nation, especially a young generation that can face the sea and survive, is the main aim of the Police Swimming and Lifesaving Programme conducted in 103 centres all over the country.

Deputy Inspector General Sirisena Herath, the pioneer of the programme, said the training was aimed at giving children the ability to save themselves and others.

A police swimming instructor explaining finer points of swimming to students attending the Police Swimming and Lifesaving Programme. Pic by Gemunu Wellage

"Apart from the swimming events, the workshops we conduct include character-building activities and lectures on AIDS and drug prevention," DIG Herath said. "Children will thus learn to safeguard the lives they have been blessed with, from dangers such as drugs and AIDS."

"In Sri Lanka, about 1500 people die every year due to drowning," he said adding that in countries like Japan, almost all the children could swim by the time they were in Grade 7 and thus they could survive in the sea.

The DIG said children who attended the workshops are taught how to rescue a person who suffers a heart attack while in the sea and how to save a person from a current without getting caught up in it.

The 200-strong police swimming squad is the best in Sri Lanka, DIG Herath said adding that 50 of them were involved in training programmes for schoolchildren. "We take an oath that as the police, it's our responsibility to prevent any crime taking place. A person getting drowned too is a crime and we are trying to prevent it," the DIG said.

"The first concern in lifesaving is the rescuer's safety. Then comes the security of the group and thirdly, the children are trained to make the maximum use of things around them. Last year, we trained about 4,500 students. About 1500 among them can hold their own in any unsafe water," he said.

Police officers too receive training in lifesaving. In Wellawatte, a specific area has been demarcated to indicate that it is safe for bathing. "Members of our life saving squad are on hand to take immediate action if necessary. We are doing our best though we cannot do it all around the island," the DIG said.

Viraj de Silva of the City Traffic Police has been training school children in this programme for a year.

"We want to save the children of low income earners in Colombo from getting addicted to drugs and crime. These programmes have proved quite successful in doing so. Recently we formed a swimming club called 'Colombo Swan' and enter competitions as well," he said.

He explained that the programme was initially launched for children who have no chance to enter into a course like this but now students from Wesley, Royal, D. S. Senanayake too come for the training programmes. "They have all got the Life Saving Basic Certificate and are now training for the Life Saving Intermediate Certificate."

B. A. M. Ramzan, a student of Maligawatta Rajasinha Vidyalaya said he was quite good in swimming now, thanks to the training he had received. With a sense of pride he says he took part in a one-mile swimming event. He is happy that students from all the schools are learning together.

Dhananjaya Kaushalya of D.S. Senanayake College said he had been coming for the training for almost two years. "We get to meet students from all over the country in the competitions and workshops. That's really good."

With a strong spirit and sense of community among them, the students are now confident of their skills and ability to stay abreast of rough waters.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.