ES Swimming, safety, and illlness


Water, water everywhere in Vietnam! We have rivers and creeks, marshes and swamps, beaches and lakes. The apartment complexes have lap pools, wading pools, and hot tubs. At high tide, we have so much water that it backs up out of the storm drains and floods District 7. You can’t throw a mango seed back over your shoulder without it landing in water of some kind.

With all this water, one would think that Vietnam would be a nation of swimmers. Mr. Minh and Mr. Huong notwithstanding, this doesn’t seem to be the case, at least with the children of Vietnam. According to the Department for Child Care and Protection, every year we lose approximately 3500 children to drowning in this country. While accidents happen and the number will never go down to zero, it could certainly be significantly reduced. As with so many social problems, the answer lies in education.

Here at SSIS, swimming education is a big deal! All the Early Childhood and Elementary students have swimming class in PE, with one 4-cycle unit in each semester; that’s twenty-four quality swim classes in a school year. Middle school students receive a similar amount of swimming instruction. We have swim team for students from 3rd grade all the way through high school, and some high school students even take lifeguard training here on campus to become Red Cross-certified guards.

The swimming education is in place and the administration is providing full support, but there’s still one piece of the program missing—the full support of the parent community. In Kindergarten alone, SSIS students missed 47 swim lessons due to illness this semester. To clarify, these are not kids that were home sick; these students have come to school with a parent note excusing them from swimming. Most of the notes cite some type of common cold symptom. Forty-seven lessons represent a lot of swimming skill left out on the side of the Kindergarten pool.

If your kids are sick, please keep them home; if they come to school, they should be ready to fully participate in the school day. Research shows that swimming doesn’t make anyone sick, and doesn’t keep anyone sick. While some people fear the idea of having a wet head, the head does not lose heat faster than any other part of the body, and a good towel-drying is all it takes to ensure that a student stays healthy. We must also take care not to send an inadvertent message to the students that learning to swim is somehow less important than what they’re learning in the classroom.

With the help of the entire SSIS community, we can ensure that our students develop the skills they need to enjoy a lifetime of recreational swimming at pools and the beach, and to stay safe in wet Vietnam!

The links below share good information on the origins of some of our beliefs about illness, how a person gets sick, and the scientific evidence regarding colds and getting wet. Coach Harris and Ms. Elizabeth are more than happy to chat with parents about their concerns; please feel free to contact them any time.

Written by: Mark Harris