THE WATER SMART is a school educational Water Safety Awareness Programme that targets the age group from 10 to 14.
Most are children in grades four to six in public and private schools in communities in the Nelson Mandela Bay District the Eastern Cape province in South Africa.
It is an interactive programme and therefore well presented to all class-size groups of children.
It is indeed a fun activity and is explained by a Tanzanian and South Africa-based instructor, Moses Ntilema focuses on the interactive programme.
He explains that the programme aims to make children more aware of water safety awareness, how to live and play safely in areas close to water and also promotes the role of lifeguards and lifesaving within the region.
In an exclusive interview with the ‘SUNDAY NEWS’ last week, Ntilema said he is eager to turn the program to Tanzania and support President Samia Suluhu’s effort to both boost sports tourism and the safety of the community.
“Before I explain more let me send my deep condolences to the President, the people of Hanang district in Manyara region for the tragedy and also to the Regional Commissioner, Queen Sendiga.”
Why does the programme focus on the children first?
He responded: “Because drowning can happen quickly and quite in just 20 seconds and 40 per cent of fetal drowning are children under the age of 15 across the globe.
“The WATER SMART module is divided into different modules which are at home, out of home, at Aquatic areas, open water and the beach where lifeguards play a big role.”
He said children learn water safety tips at home, open water (ocean, rivers, dams, lakes), rip current, beach safety tips and how to respond or to communicate in case of any emergencies from home to school and when they go to any water-related activities.
“We have a good time with school pupils and at the end of the activities we make sure each child receives a complimentary copy of the class. It would either be a workbook, flier or fun activity book related to the subject.
Once succeed in grade four to six the program will continue to high grades both in primary and secondary schools,” he said.
He said it is a free educational programme for all schools whereby schools need to make free bookings for this service because the program is partnered and sponsored by DHL, Lifesaving South Africa, Department of Sport and Recreational and the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation-South Africa.
Ntilema explained that the WATERSMART activity is now adapted in Botswana and Namibia as well where all WATERSMART facilitators share experiences via emails and WhatsApp group chats.
Ntilema got this opportunity of being among five facilitators at the district level after having passed the WATER SMART courses’ requirements but also due to his previous teaching career, lifesaving and volunteering experience from his native country of Tanzania who has voluntarily taught Water Safety Awareness to more than one thousand school children in Tanzania and twenty-one public schools in South Africa.
He is a dedicated and experienced Water Rescuer, Senior Surf Lifeguard also part of Eastern Cape Aquatics as a Learn To swim Instructor where he focuses on the foundation phase of coaching from children to adults and those with special needs.
He stressed that his main objectives are to teach and promote swimming skills, water confidence, survival skills, water safety awareness and Lifesaving skills.
“To become a WATER SMART facilitator it’s not an easy task, you must have teaching skills, a volunteer background and most importantly you need to undergo several legal processes and understand the code of conduct which will include”, submitting criminal and any children or gender clearance.
“Also, to obtain a Safe Guardian certificate or course which guides you in any activity that involves children or youth such as Lifesaving, Aquatic sports or any other sports,” he added.
Ntilema noted that it’s very important to know about a child’s rights, child’s protection and the rights of some individuals who are intellectually or physically impaired.
Ntilema has participated in the Swift and flood water rescue and landslides rescue course in three countries.
He was also successfully awarded the Scared Straight of Aquatics and Open Water Lifeguarding Certificates by the Lifesaving Resources Institute of America in July 2023 and he might attend the ICE RESCUE Instructors course in the USA in February 2024.
The WATER SMART program is one of the National strategies and the best way to prevent drowning in the country of South Africa since the children and the community need to know all kinds of water safety awareness including recognising and assessing any danger near and around water at all times, especially at this time of summer holidays.
“The WATER SMART activity has reached more than one million children across South Africa, especially at this time of summer holidays. The program helps the young children to be aware of any kind of water accident including those that may be caused by climate changes,” he said.
Ntilema as the CEO of Tanzania Lifeguarding Centre and Dar es Salaam Aquatic Safety Centre is focusing on using this opportunity and experience to support Hon president Samia and the government of Tanzania to prevent drowning and promote water safety awareness in the country and save the lives of young children who are our future.
He mentioned that Dar es Salaam itself has a minimum of thirty-two local beaches where some drowning incidences have been reported and young children have been the victims.
“I will make sure I use my skills and experience to support our Regional Commissioner in his great effort towards huge changes to prevent drowning any water-related accidents.
“I would like to advise the Dar es Salaam RC Albert Chalamila, to burn the uses of the tyre tubes at the beach because they cause unsafe and harmful activities at the beach.
According to my travel experience, all the countries in the world don’t allow the use of tyre tubes at public beaches for safety purposes,” he advised.
He said it’s very important to educate people about water safety awareness to prevent drowning and other water-related injuries rather than responding to the rescue incident which may cost the lives of many and affect our financial stability.
Ntilema added: “I was so touched when I read an about a 14 years school girl named Aneth from Bwendangabo village in Bukoba district who drowned in the river while playing with her peers on the way from school to home on November 27, 2023.”
He also advises the Parliament of Tanzania to discuss this matter in detail by inviting all Tanzanian Water Rescue personnel and professionals to raise their supportive and productive ideas not only for drowning prevention but also to help the government construct future National Policies and National Strategies on drowning prevention.
“My deep gratitude thanks to Lifesaving Nelson Mandela Bay and Lifesaving South Africa for the trust, opportunity and huge support on my Lifesaving and Lifesaving and Water rescue experience since I still developing myself in many programs for his Lifesaving career!”
He also mentioned that he is still looking for any kind of support to enable him to attend the 2024 Lifesaving World Championship in Australia.
Ntilema insisted that it was a great opportunity for him to share and present well his country of Tanzania to use this opportunity to win among the events and become a good ambassador for coast tourism especially attracting different nationals to visit the beaches of Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.
He emphasizes that Tanzania’s beaches are warm and calm compared to other countries.
“On 30 October 2023, I was so impressed by Dorothy Gwajima the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children at Coco Beach in Dar es Salaam City after the unusual beach video went viral.
During the visit minister said, “The group of People known as BEACH BOYS must be trained and have official identification that can guide them to provide any beach services that may cause any danger or child and gender abuse at the beaches”.
However, Ntilema insisted that he is ready to support or advise the Government on a matter that may help the Region to operate public beaches in a very professional way since he worked as a professional and experienced Senior Lifeguard in Tanzania since 2017.
This may not only be to promote safe beaches but also sports and also to attract thousands of tourists to the beach as had ideas that can promote beach standards in the country.