Thousands of kindergarten children are now learning to swim through a government-funded program. The Nordland Province Governor says funds are insufficient to cover demand.
– We have learned to somersault into the water, says Raja.
– And to stand upside down, says David before splashing backwards in Nadderudhallen (Bærum County).
The two expertly fasten their swimming goggles and disappear under water with legs in the air, soon to reappear.
They attend Jongkollen, one of kindergartens who have made use of the state funding for swimming lessons. Last year was about NOK 25 million were awarded to kindergartens who wanted to offer kids water familiarisation. This year’s pot is increased to approximately NOK 36 million.
Never been in a swimming pool
Trude Stensrud, the Manager of Jongkollen, said they had a tip of about the scheme from one of the kindergarten’s fathers who is swimming instructor.
– The kids love it. We have had children participating who have never been in a swimming pool before. Now we see them diving and playing in the water, says Stensrud.
They are naturally going to reapply for funding this year.
– There are also families from other cultures who do not have the same tradition to visit swimming pools with children as many Norwegians do. This is a very good way for these children to learn how to feel safe in water, says Stensrud.
Funds run out
The Regional Governors are responsible for processing the applications and managing the funds. An overview from the Directorate of Education shows that the money is largely spent. 11 of 17 Province Governors have doled all the money out. Overall, only half a million of the 25 million awarded last year was not claimed.
– The need kindergartens exceed the state funding. I am unsure if we get proper funding this year, says Monja Myreng, a representative of the Province of Nordland, to Utdanning.no.
Nordland was awarded an extra half a million last year in addition to the 850,000 originally granted. In Nordland there are more private than public kindergartens applying.
– It was smart to allow kindergartens to apply directly, but it increased the number of applications, she elaborated.
In Nordland, the application deadline has already been reached and Myreng assume they will dole out the subsidies in March.
– The money will have to be used in the current school year, according to her.
– The younger, the better
Liberal politician Abid Raja has been one of the foremost proponents of getting approval for the scheme in negotiations with the Government. After several cases of drowning in the spring of 2014, he gathered swimming organisations and politicians to discuss measures.
Raja said that the figures showed that while only half of Norwegian children are considered good swimmers, the corresponding figures for the neighbouring countries are 90 percent or more.
– We were by far the bottom of the class. We had to do something. The Swim organisations stated that the younger the children are, the easier it is to teach them how to swim. They said that kindergartens are the optimal place to start, says Raja.
Therefore NOK ten million was allotted in 2015 as a trial -expanded to the current 35 million.
– Figures from the Swim Association show that last year about fifteen thousand children learned how to swim through this scheme. This year twenty thousand more will learn the skill, according to Raja.
He has warned the Minister of Education, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, that if they stay in power after the General Election, they must cough up at least NOK fifty million.
– We will continue to raise this pot, as we see that it is effective, says Raja.
The matter taken lightly
The Minister of Education, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, has no intention to shelve the scheme in the near future.
– I can’t promise that this will be become a permanent arraignment for all, but we’re going to keep it as an application scheme as possible. We have no plans to remove it, says Røe Isaksen.
His impression is that swimming lessons hasn’t exactly been strengthened in the past decade.
– Swimming lessons is not something you can opt out of schools. But my impression is that some places have treated it a bit lightly, says Røe Isaksen.
He points out that the government has also introduced a scheme for asylum seekers and refugees, and that they have changed the learning objectives in school to press for better swimming lessons in the municipalities.
Last year, the handing out funds to the kindergarten swim initiative was a bit slow. The Minister stated that this is a general problem with such application programs.
– It is not lack of demand, but not enough people were aware of the scheme, says Røe Isaksen.
Source: utdanningsnytt.no / Norway Today