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Social distancing aggravates lost kids headache on Cape Town beaches

12 December 2020 - 14:36 By philani nombembe
Muizenberg is one of the Cape Town beaches where Identikidz will be used over the holiday.
Muizenberg is one of the Cape Town beaches where Identikidz will be used over the holiday.
Image: Esa Alexander

The City of Cape Town has its work cut out this festive season.

As if safeguarding children on the beaches was not difficult enough, the city has to ensure social distancing — meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 — is adhered to.

The city will again roll out its Identikidz programme “which registers and issues young beach visitors with an identification armband”.

Zahid Badroodien, the mayoral committee member responsible for community services and health, said the programme will be run on 16 beaches “on priority days during December and January”. 

He added: “Last year, more than 100,000 children were tagged and 535 were reunited with their families.

“Parents and guardians are reminded that it's not a babysitting service and should not replace the responsibility of parents to supervise their children at all times while they're on the beach.

Badroodien listed a number of factors that lead to children going missing on beaches, including visiting them without adults, and parents or guardians getting drunk.  

“Most parents are responsive to the programme and this contributes to its success. They bring their children and come looking for the Identikidz stations on the beaches and the young ones know where to come if they get lost,” said Badroodien.

According to the National Sea Rescue Institute, drowning is “a major cause of accidental death in SA, claiming the lives of more than 600 children each year”.

Mina Manoussakis, founder and director of Aqua Dolphin Swimming Club (ADSC), has also urged “parents to take preventive measures to avoid any accidents” this festive season.

“Never leave your child unattended, since they can drown in less than 6cm of water. If you have a pool at home, installing barriers to prevent children from accessing the swimming area unaccompanied is a practical investment,” said Manoussakis.

“When at the beach, don’t swim alone, even if you are a trained swimmer. Remember, though it’s the festive season, drinking and swimming isn’t sensible. When it comes to your family, the right investments, like a tow float or dry bag, are as necessary as sunblock in your beach bag. Also, try to only frequent beaches where lifeguards are present.”

Phila Zita, a swimming instructor at ADSC, said there is “an obligation to pass on essential water safety skills to young children”.

Zita said a number of things should be  considered when teaching children how to swim. He said past experiences with water play a big role in tailoring the lesson to each child’s requirements.

“If the swimmer had a traumatic experience, such as almost drowning or being pushed into the water by their friends, then as an instructor you need to be patient, calm and understanding. Playing games to show how much fun it is in the water builds confidence and trust,”  said Zita.