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SWIMMING: Aquatic skills should be acquired by all
THERE are claims of the discovery of Noah's Ark over Mount Ararat in Turkey. The quest has fascinated archaeologists and explorers for hundreds of years.
When God commanded Prophet Noah to build an Ark, as always, there were the detractors. Those who followed Noah, together with the various creatures in pairs, were saved from the waves which were as high as the mountains.
Those ignorant of the stories of the Abrahamic faiths, would nevertheless espouse the benefits of swimming, if not for survival, for other reasons.
Malaysia has 4675km of coastline. There are so many world-renowned beaches on the islands and mainland, including, of course, the now renamed Beach of Passionate Love in Kelantan.
Malaysia is not a land-locked country and it has plenty of water surrounding the country. Malays, Chinese and Indians were also seafarers in junks, tongkangs, sampans of yesteryear.
The Malaysian International Shipping Corporation, incorporated in 1968, is evidence of the legacy of the seafarers of Malaysia. Seafarers, sailors and their families should know how to swim. People who are coastal inhabitants should know how to swim.
If the government and society encourage people to engage in sports, why is there little encouragement for aquatic sports? Why is swimming not part of the formal national curriculum?
There are Chinese swimming clubs, swimming pools in golf clubs and other recreation clubs. Schools of old, like the Malay College Kuala Kangsar and Victoria Institution, have their own swimming pools. Many schools remain without swimming pools.
INTI International University in Nilai has the strategic advantage of having a swimming pool, as Kolej Yayasan Saad has in Malacca. Sri Cempaka International School for Girls, a school like a five-star hotel, has a very attractive swimming pool. There are private swimming pools in hotels and in the homes of the rich.
It would seem that swimming is now an activity reflecting social class. Those who swim are those who have membership access to swimming clubs or school swimming pools. Those who do not have access to such clubs do not swim.
Swimming is also becoming an ethnic divide. More Chinese than Malays swim, for whatever push-pull factors of culture, religion, location or opportunity. If swimming were promoted and became an aspect of the national curriculum, then such a divide would no longer remain.
People swim in rivers, lakes, waterfalls, seas and swimming pools. Advanced swimmers compete in aquatic sports or go for snorkelling and scuba diving. Those in the navy swim and train underwater to intercept any underwater incursions by enemies.
As more people travel and stay in hotels, they keep fit by going to hotel gyms and swimming pools. To overcome any objection of exposure of the shape of the human body, there are those who have fashioned Muslim swimsuits.
The benefits of swimming have been extolled across education systems and in advanced societies of the world.
Swimming is good for the control and betterment of stiff muscles and sore joints and is good for people with arthritis. Swimming increases muscle tone and strength, improves bone strength, improves flexibility, develops healthier heart, nurtures weight control, improves and controls asthma symptoms, reduces cholesterol, lowers risk of diabetes, lowers stress, fosters higher spirits and nurtures better brain functioning.
Typically, people learn to master the basics of swimming in twelve hours or so. Schools do provide aquatic modules of 10-week sessions annually. Like many things, it is good if skills and talents are acquired when people are younger.
There are many divides in society: political, religious, economic, social-cultural, urban-rural, information-rich and information-poor. Let not activities such as golfing, tennis, squash, equestrian and aquatic sports be such divides.
Swimming can be part of the national curriculum which eliminates such divides.
Those who champion the health and recreational benefits of swimming must come to the fore to ensure that the next generation does not become a lost generation -- losing the opportunity of swimming, for survival and for health.
Not to encourage swimming will be one of the educational and cultural blind spots of society.
Society should envision that every Malaysian child is taught to swim by accredited instructors and no child should leave school without learning the basics of swimming, the capacity for survival and the opportunity to enjoy aquatic environments and activities.