Saira Khan has urged Brits to learn to swim (Image: ITV)
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I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to swim today if I hadn't been taught at school as my Pakistani parents came from a culture that didn't encourage it.
But I am so grateful to have this life skill because not only has it given me confidence in the water, it has opened up many opportunities to have fun with my children. It also keeps me physically and mentally fit and well.
As a Muslim woman, my mum would never have dreamt of baring her arms and legs in a swimming costume at the local baths, so she never learned.
But after years of me nagging her, she finally decided at the age of 65 to take the plunge, and she can now swim. I am so proud of her achievement.
I share her story to highlight how you can learn at any age.
Teya Davies tragically died after trying to help her friend who had fallen into Sniggy Pond in Widnes in 2018
As a parent, I have made it a priority that my children develop good swimming skills, and they are now both competent in the water.
I had assumed that in this day and age, most adults and children would be able to swim.
However, that is not the case. Over 55% of parents surveyed said they would not be confident their children would know what to do if they fell into open water.
A rise in drowning figures prompted the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) to encourage parents to teach their children how to stay safe and enjoy water safely as part of last week’s national Drowning Prevention Week.
Due to the pandemic, millions of children have missed out on vital swimming, lifesaving skills and water safety education.
Young people from low incomes and ethnic minority communities have been the hardest hit.
A staggering 95% of black adults and 80% of black children cannot swim.
Accidental drowning is responsible for the deaths of an average 400 UK and Irish citizens each year.
Teya drowned in Clincton woods in Widnes
(Image: Liverpool Echo/Gavin Trafford)
The RLSS fears that with lockdown restrictions lifting and staycations on the up, families will flock to inland water locations and beaches this summer without the right knowledge and skills – putting themselves and others at risk.
So the society has teamed up with the family and friends of 14-year-old Teya Davies – who tragically died after trying to help her friend who had fallen into Sniggy Pond in Widnes in 2018 – to create a powerful video highlighting the importance of water safety.
Teya’s friend, Liv Eren said: "When looking back on Teya’s story, we now know how preventable her death could have been if only she knew how to swim, or to keep herself safe in the water.”
RLSS UK’s director Lee Heard said: "The inequality in access to swim-ming and water safety education, and subsequent lack of potential interaction with the water is a big concern.
"We urge as many parents and carers as possible to get involved with the campaign, use our free online resources, and give children the skills to enjoy fun in the water."