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NZ: Waikato launches water safety program

A new program launched by the University of Waikato on New Zealand’s north island aims to reduce the number of accidental drownings involving international students, and inform the delivery of water safety programs throughout the country.

Waikato aims to reduce the number of accidental drownings involving international students. Photo: Aleks Dahlberg/UnsplashWaikato aims to reduce the number of accidental drownings involving international students. Photo: Aleks Dahlberg/Unsplash

A Filipino student's death led to increased calls to improve water safety awareness

The Water Safe Waikato program, delivered in partnership with Water Safety New Zealand, will provide 80 international students with hands-on water safety, including basic swimming skills and hazard identification, as well as “dry” safety modules open to all students during orientation.

“Our university has lost two international students in two years to drowning”

“International students often come from cultures where swimming and water leisure are not big parts of their life,” explained Waikato’s international student services manager Huy Vu.

“Our university has lost two international students over the last two years to drowning. These deaths have had a profound impact on our student and staff community, and we want to actively do all we can to try to better prepare our international students to learn about water safety in New Zealand.”

Funded through the 2017 International Student Wellbeing Strategy, the initiative will also include information and resources sharing for international students, as well as a research project to develop best practice in training international students, the results of which will be shared with other institutions.

“There will also be research conducted to develop a very simple method of instructing people how to tread water, which is core skill necessary for survival in the water,” Vu told The PIE News.

“If successful this may have broader use within New Zealand, with children, for instance.”

Since 2013, there have been at least ten accidental drownings involving international students in New Zealand.

A recent case of a Filipino student’s death led to increased calls from stakeholders to improve water safety awareness programs specifically for international students.

“ISANA NZ advocates that those responsible for orientating new international students… include in their orientation and out of class experiences water safety education and ideally some practical inputs from persons experienced in water safety,” ISANA NZ president Terry McGrath told The PIE at the time.

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