In the Grafrath School’s swimming pool south of Munich, 15 children are sitting by the pool. The blue lanes are still empty, it smells of chlorine. The five- to seven-year-olds have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Finally, they can learn to swim.
Swimming teacher Matthias Heimbach from the swimming school “Flipper” equips them with a swimming belt and pool noodles, then they go into the water. Heimbach currently teaches about 500 children in several pools around Munich and is fully booked. “The waiting lists are long, they were even before Corona,” says Heimbach. The Corona situation has made things worse, many children have not been able to get on the train since then. “If the parents then waited until the child was six or seven years old, then there was simply a two-year break. And it’s hard to start the process with the eight-nine-year-old now.”
Parents wait up to a year for swimming lessons
The swimming school offers five dates between Pentecost and summer vacation so the kids can at least learn the basics. The parents who wait in the sun in front of the swimming pool are grateful for every swimming lesson. Some have waited up to a year for this course. The waiting lists are long everywhere, the swimming pools are fully booked.
The German lifesaving company, DLRG, warns that two whole cohorts did not learn to swim during the pandemic. There are about 200,000 children in Bavaria.
Even before that, more than half of all children could not swim safely by the end of primary school, says Michael Förster, spokesman for DLRG. DLRG had already asked parents across Germany in 2017 if their children had a swim badge. Result: 60 percent of elementary school children did not have a bronze swim badge.
Bronze swimming badge means swimming 200 meters at a time, part of it on your back and diving an object out of the water. If a child can do this, it can swim safely.
The Swimming Teachers Association: Coupons are quite counterproductive
At the beginning of the school year, Bavarian politicians handed out advertising vouchers. 50 euros for preschoolers and first graders to participate in a seahorse class. Alexander Gallitz, president of the German Swimming Teachers’ Association, does not think much about it:
“I think it’s quite counterproductive to give each child a € 50 voucher because there are areas where there is no swimming pool at all and the courses are already incredibly full. There is not enough water, there are not enough swimming instructors. ” Alexander Gallitz, President of the German Swimming Instructors’ Association
There are also high bureaucratic obstacles, the coupons cannot be redeemed at all swimming schools. Or, the swimming schools waited for months for the expenses to be reimbursed. Upon request, the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior confirms that 22,600 vouchers have been redeemed so far. Not much with 200,000 children who have not learned to swim due to the corona pandemic.
Seahorse brand is not enough
The seahorse is a beginner brand. The child must be able to swim 25 meters and dive an object out of the water. But it is not enough to be able to swim really safely. You will need the bronze mark for it. All experts agree. Swimming instructor Matthias Heimbach says many parents would think they could send their child off alone with the seahorse badge:
“It is super dangerous to trust this seahorse. The child must be able to swim 25 meters for the seahorse and they do so in a pool where the water is calm. When the child then walks in the lake, it swims ten meters and it is a large sandy beach . ” then a wave comes, it is startled and sinks. “Matthias Heimbach, swimming instructor
In no other state do more people drown than in Bavaria. Last year there were 60. Accidents happen again and again because both children and adults cannot swim safely. It requires more swimming pools and more open swimming pools. In Bavaria, every other indoor or outdoor pool needs renovation.