600 children drown every year. Here’s why water safety matters


Of the millions of children living in South Africa, only a minority are taught to swim for recreation and for safety. The rest are at schools without pool facilities and teachers, unable to afford private instructors. During the festive season, many of these kids will head off to the sea, braving the waters for the very first time. As a result, the National Sea Rescue Institute reports 600 children drowning every year. Those who stand on the sidelines might be safe, but they’re left out of the fun.

With a love for both children and swimming, Carol Esterhuizen realised that she could contribute to saving lives by teaching children the skills and confidence they need to participate safely. The Cape Town-based instructor has been offering lessons for over 10 years, but decided to extend her reach to those who couldn’t afford the training, partnering with Ikhaya Le Themba to start a swimming outreach programme. Since 2016, Esterhuizen has trained 25 pre-primary children in Khayelitsha. With their new skills, they are now more active, confident, and able to join other kids rather than having to choose between feeling left out or putting their lives in danger.

Esterhuizen hopes that personal growth and improved water safety skills may also spark an interest in competitive swimming. Who knows – the next Chad le Clos may be from Khayelitsha. For now, she is content that one more kid is safe in the water. All children deserve the chance to enjoy their holidays and focus on fun without the risk that swimming brings. Esterhuizen is ensuring that every child she teaches has this opportunity, regardless of their background.