There is a legacy in Africa, due to many social, economic and political factors, that has led to the majority of Africans not being able to swim.
In South Africa for instance, only a small percentage of the population (estimated at 15%) can swim – and most of them are white. After more than twenty years of being a politically non-racial country, aquatic activity does not reflect the ideals of the wider South African society.
There is now a changing mind-set regarding the need to swim in South Africa, but change is slow. During apartheid, white children would spend lots of free time playing in private pools that are a feature of most middle-class suburban homes. Most black children had never seen a swimming pool, let alone swim in one, due to the poor facilities and poor infrastructure, in black-only neighbourhoods.
As a vibrant (but mostly non-swimming) black middle-class grows in South Africa and is able to buy homes with pools, there is a new threat. Without any historical inbuilt vigilance regarding pool safety, hundreds of children drown each year at home because parents are unable to rescue them. Children are also drowning every week in South Africa’s lakes, dams and oceans; nearly all of them are black.
The South African government “Every South African is a swimmer” initiative (from where the title of this series originates – and questions) sets goals to teach over 50,000 children a year to swim, concentrating on the townships and rural areas. Despite this initiative clearly much more needs to be done to mobilise swimming activities, change perceptions – and save lives.