Children drowning in swimming pools


First, I commiserate with David Adeleke (aka Davido) and Chioma Rowland on the untimely death of their son, Ifeanyi. Like most netizens, I see the young lad’s photos circulate the web and it feels like I know him personally. Words are insufficient to capture the searing pain of the loss and one can only pray for their family to find the fortitude to bear it. Losing a child is never easy, and theirs will be impacted by social media where people with zero bandwidth of emotional intelligence will make malicious comments about the unfortunate incident.

Already, a so-called prophet who claims to have foreseen the incident is exploiting the moment to ask the bereaved to come and see him personally. I hope Davido ignores the charlatan; he does not want to be turned into a cheap target of social media hustlers looking to exploit his pain for money. We should normalise ignoring Nigerian prophets who always see death but never life. If that prophet is truly a man of God, let him tell us when Nigeria will have a 24/7 power supply!

Second, writing about drowning has been on my list of issues to discuss for months now after reading about disturbing incidents of drowning involving children. In May, for instance, Chidera Eze, a five-year-old pupil of Redeemers Nursery and Primary School, Ogba, Lagos State, drowned during a swimming lesson organised by the school. Another report, in June, stated that three siblings drowned in a swimming pool within their estate in Ajah, Lagos State. There were a couple of other instances too. Since this recent one happened, people have recalled that another music star, Dapo Oyebanjo (D’Banj), lost his child via drowning in 2018. While the circumstances that led to the deaths of these children in the pools were never made clear, my observation from being around swimming pools in Nigeria is that we do not put enough safety measures in place to prevent drownings.

Please note that I am not directly blaming anyone, especially the parents, for any of the incidents. Anyone who has ever raised a child can tell you that surviving their toddler years is a miracle. Children have no concept of danger, and you only need to look away for a moment for the worst to happen. Also, accidents happen even under the best of circumstances (which is why they are called “accidents” because they suppose a breach). However, when there are not enough guardrails in place and something goes wrong, it is no longer accidental.

Drowning is, of course, not peculiar to Nigeria as it can happen anywhere in the world. The World Health Organisation lists it as the third leading cause of unintentional injury worldwide. Countries with middle and low income (like Nigeria) account for about 90 per cent of the global casualty rate. As an African, you are ten times likelier to drown in a swimming incident than a German. Some years ago, I was astounded to read the media profile of fishermen working around Lake Victoria in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya who did not know—and never learnt— how to swim. Even the police officers who patrol the lake do not know how to swim! These people were raised to stay away from water—and they still do—even though they ironically earn their livelihoods from it. The toxic combination of poverty and fatalism that prevail among the people accounts for a high rate of drowning, many of which are even unreported.

Related News
  • No mercury in vaccines administered on children – NAFDAC
  • Giving children lower doses of adult medication wrong, can cause harm –Paediatricians
  • Why children are so different

Nigeria is not all that different. Unless you were born in a riverine area or had parents who had some access to the few pools around the whole country, there is a high likelihood that you cannot swim either. Although reliable data to substantiate the percentage of Nigerians that cannot swim is virtually nonexistent, I can surmise that most people do not. Nobody taught them as children (the best time for anyone to learn) and the facilities available for them to learn as an adult are either poor, inaccessible, or missing altogether. Recall that in 2014, the Nigerian Navy administration announced that they were introducing compulsory swimming lessons for all its officers. They had realised that most junior and senior officers could not swim and therefore were incapable of conducting waterborne operations! If it were not Nigeria, who would believe the story of naval officers that could not do something as basic to their job as swimming?

Part of my observation of water safety in Nigeria is that we are not a swimming culture. As such, the safety measures of other societies, where swimming is practically routine and developed, are still largely alien to us. Without the regularity of swimming activities that prompts insistence on safety measures, people build or go to swimming pools without considering everything that can go wrong. Elsewhere, there are Pool and Safety Acts that provide legal guidance to guarantee water safety, but water accidents are relatively rare in Nigeria, and hardly any Nigerian lawmaker will make that a priority. The best we can do for now is to sensitise ourselves to what can go wrong and take necessary precautions.

For families with swimming pools in their houses, ringing a fence around it is not even enough. Children have been known to scale those fences to get to the pool. Children are always curious and will go out of their way to seek thrills. You cannot warn them enough to desist. People who build swimming pools at home should also invest in a mesh covering to tightly cover the surface when not in use. If it is an indoor pool, the door leading to it should have an alarm. Even from the point of building pools, there is a need for safety precautions. Some drains inside pools have been known to entrap children and cause their death. If your swimming pool potentially poses such a problem, it should be fitted with an anti-entrapment cover. Public pools should always have trained lifeguards. Where there are no lifeguards, people should receive sufficient warning. Also, there should always be rescue equipment by the pool side. As much as possible too, everyone should learn how to recognise the signs of drowning. Once, I witnessed someone drowning and I had no clue what was happening. It looked ordinary, totally devoid of the drama that comes with similar incidents in Hollywood movies. We were lucky that someone recognised the signs and intervened.

Most importantly, children should always be supervised. Even when multiple people are gathered around the pool, never assume that everyone can see what is happening. When everyone is watching, nobody is really watching. Even when your children can swim, they should still be monitored because you just never know. Drowning has happened to even swimmers, so it is important not to rule anything out. I have been to swimming pools where I have seen parents buried in their phones as their children dove into the pool. While I always find such confidence admirable, I still believe monitoring them will not hurt. Anything can go wrong. One must not take anything for granted. A swimming pool need not be deep before one drowns in it. Children have died in a six-inch pool. Also, a phenomenon called “dry drowning” can happen hours after leaving the pool.

If your children’s school asks to take them for swimming lessons, ask questions about what protocols they have in place in case an accident happens. What will the ratio of teacher-students in the pool be like? Can the teacher perform CPR? Make them answer those questions convincingly or refuse to release your child into their care. Those questions will make it seem like your own is too much but do not be embarrassed to be that annoying parent when your child’s life is involved. ,

Ifeanyi: Davido’s nanny, cook may face charges for negligence


Power: Senate to grill minister over N147bn projects


PDP rubbishes Tinubu, Shettima over attack on Atiku


DCO probed for allegedly torturing Osun policewoman for rejecting advances


You’re no longer confident, Atiku’s camp mocks ‘Obidients’


Manifesto: Kwankwaso’s 20 promises to Nigerians


AG report: Lagos lawmakers begin indicted MDAs’ probe


Why PDP won’t sanction aggrieved govs – NEC members


FG owes contractors over N11tn, says Fashola


More like this