UK and Kenya Swim Stroke Correction Beginners to GB Age Group Team
Aqua Engineering by
Swim-tech on tour 2010
With the Mikoroshoni Primary School
We have always wanted to do some overseas voluntary work and so this year we set
out to get involved. Why Kenya? Well as a youngster I would listen to my father’s
stories of his time in Kenya serving his army conscription and after also learning
a splattering of Swahili I became interested to see and learn more.
Since then we have been to different parts of Kenya and Tanzania on Safari and camping
seeing both the beautiful and brutality that is Africa.
I was reading about how the accident rate was high in Kenya around the coast because
there were very few swimming instructors and even less public swimming pools especially
for the poorer off Kenyan’s and their children. My wife works for SAGA holidays and
she told me about a primary school in Mombasa that had been visited by SAGA charitable
trust and the two went together. I contacted John Brooker who runs “The Friends of
Mikoroshoni” charity in the UK and straight away he thought my idea of teaching swimming
and water awareness to some of the poorest and most under privileged children from
the Mikoroshoni School was a fantastic idea and he gave his full backing and support.
An equal amount of enthusiasm also came from the SAGA charitable trust led by
Janice Lee who assisted greatly using their contacts Somak travel in Mombasa who
sourced a hotel swimming pool for us to use that did not mind the teaching of young
All we needed now was swimming costumes, goggles, floats and help with paying for
the pool hire, children’s transport, food and anything else I had not thought about.
A plea to the Triathlon community was answered with offers of costumes and goggles
from members of Deal tri and the Tri Talk forum. Goggles and floats came from Lyndon
Dunsbee the pool manager of Folkestone Sports Centre along with some financial aid
from Deal tri organised by the chairman Gary Holmes and backed up by the 2010 Discoveries
award winning Elna van Der Ryst and Dover business Spencer & Cleverly owned by Ivor
Spencer. We were ready.
Before starting the swimming sessions Julie and I visited the school and were met
by the headmaster Joshua. Straight away I could tell this man was special, he was
unassuming, could be easily passed in the street but you could sense what his life
was about, and what he wanted for the children of the Mikoroshoni primary school
and the whole Shanzu community. He also enthused about what we were going to do and
was as excited about it as we were. He invited us to visit all the class rooms to
see the work the teachers were doing and to meet the children especially the 30 he
had chosen for myself to teach. What really broke the ice (not difficult in the sweltering
Mombasa heat of the small classrooms) was when I introduced myself in Swahili, the
children’s mouths dropped and so did the Head masters. After that I had to speak
Swahili in every classroom.
The next day we started the swim sessions which were done as three groups of ten
pupils, each for just over one hour on two non-consecutive days. We would like to
have done more but this was all we could afford this time and of course without interrupting
normal school life to much. The children were both sexes aged between 8 and 14 years
old, with the majority in the 8 to 10 age span.
It was soon very clear that this definitely was the first time anything like swimming
had been attempted, as the costumes were being put over their clothes or back to
front. Once the children got over the giggles of seeing each other in swimming costumes
we started by slowly walking down the steps into the pool. Again more giggles as
they felt the water slowly moving up their body as they stepped down.
To us all very normal, to the children all very new.
I started the water awareness with slowly walking holding the side, then walking
freely forward, sideways and backwards followed by running. We then went on to bouncing
up and down whilst walking. This we followed by chin on the water and then bubble
blowing and noisy bubble blowing. Progression took us to breathing out underwater
and pushing off the floor to surface.
Friends of Mikoroshoni
“We started the feeding programme after we were told by Joshua about a boy who had
come into school sweating profusely and shivering terribly. He told the teacher that
he hadn't eaten for 3 days. Joshua also told us of some younger children who were
eating leaves because they were so hungry.”
I wanted to introduce some basic float work and so we worked on kicking front and
back holding the float in the maximum support position on the front and holding tight
to the chest on the back. This again was all done with constant giggles from both
the swimmers and those waiting their turn. Finishing with a blowing the float race
which was competed for the same as any swim gala event
It was then time to introduce jumping in. I demonstrated the star jump entry and
then it was the children’s go. Not one was worried about giving it a go and all completed
three jumps successfully.
Next it was the goggles and these were soon to be realised a great fun learning tool.
Once I had checked each pupils fitting we started with standing head on water, duck
down, sitting on the bottom and finally diving under to count how many fingers that
I was holding up whilst sitting on the bottom. As I now expected all counted the
fingers including how many on each hand when different.
The final game was my version of “Pirate treasure hunt” The children had to start
by jumping off the side with goggles, move on top of the water under their own movement
to the pool steps where we had place 20 Kenyan Shilling coins on the bottom step.
They then had to dive down and pick a treasure coin and get out of the pool.
All the pirates went away with their treasure.
After each session we gave them a large bottled drink as rehydration here is vital
and a banana or two chosen by us over other food for its nutritional value.
As they waited on the hired bus to return to school all I saw were smiles followed
by a spontaneous singing of Jambo Bwana by all the children which we joined in with.
The Headmaster asked them if they would like a swimming lesson each day.
The answer? YES PLEASE.
It should be remembered here when watching the video or seeing the pictures that
these children had never swam or been near a swimming pool.
So what did we achieve? Why not put the money spent directly to the school?
These are very good questions and ones that we thought about before starting.. We
choose the swimming/basic water awareness instruction instead so that we could give
the children a life lesson about water and its dangers and also its pleasures. Hopefully
it will never have to be challenged in an accident situation. We also wanted to give
the children a totally new learning experience and stimulation outside that of any
they were likely to come across at the current time. Life must also have some pleasure
as well as living.
The Teaching Tech bit
The session plans were set around water awareness and basic survival as the main
aim. The walking, running, under water and above water breathe control and float
games were used for this. Movement once semi prone (front and back) was restricted
to kick work to allow basic propulsion using a buoyancy aid. Only some arm work (Pulling
whilst walking techniques) was included due to the pool time restrictions.
A shallow water entry was included encase of falling from the river bank (Mombasa
is an Island) as there can and often is found here debris around the waters edge.
Although it would be unlikely that goggles would be available in an accident situation
I used them as part of guided discovery when collecting the coins under the water.
I was more interested in getting the children to feel comfortable going under the
water for a longer time than just a small bob under so that this left them needing
a breath. This let them practise how not to take water in when stressed. They were
also used for the novelty factor.
All sections of the plan were used but alternated constantly to keep attention span
high. I also used teacher/pupil questioning and pupil/teacher feedback to monitor
understanding using both English and limited Swahili to keep listening active.
At the beginning of the sessions I explained the “Rules” so that encase of an emergency
a set order announcement was understood. I used STOP as a simple means of halting
As always with teaching FUN was used constantly and play but as it should be, with
What did surprise me was the children’s very high power of visual observation. It
was far greater than I am used to. An example was the streamlined “hands on” position.
I only showed it once with no explanation of the hands position but the children
followed the position including the hands on. The same thing can be seen with the
floats and especially the goggles, which after seeing me rest them above my eyes
they all followed suite when above the water.
This made me work far harder in my demonstration and the use of pupil demonstration.
It really was a case of 99% right 100% wrong.
Comments by swimming teachers on the methods used most welcome. Please Email HERE
Would you like to help?
These are a few notes from John Brooker
The pupils from Mikoroshoni are amongst the poorest in the Shanzu Community which
itself is one of the poorest communities in Mombasa.
These families live on less than £1 a day.
For those in Standard 8, the top class in a Kenya primary school, who pass to go
to secondary school, none are able to attend as Secondary Education is not free in
Kenya. It costs about £480 a year for 4 years to attend Secondary School.
Pupils are about 15 or 16 years of age when they finish primary school in Kenya.
Out of about 125 Mikoroshoni pupils who, in the past 7 years, have passed to go to
Secondary School we have only managed to get sponsorship for 10 pupils.
Last year 2 pupils got sponsorship to Secondary School. There were no Secondary Sponsorships
in the 2 years previously to that.
Although Mikoroshoni pupils come from very poor backgrounds, we have some very bright
pupils, some who would be 'A' students at Secondary School.
The only way for these youngsters to get out of the poverty trap is through education.
If we could obtain just 2 sponsors, or if friends would like to get together to sponsor
one youngster, then we be able to give a couple of Mikoroshoni pupils something that
we take for granted in the UK, a secondary education and a future for them and their
The ‘Friends of Mikoroshoni Primary School’ is a small independent charity organised
by the six of us, Yvonne & John from Manchester and Pat & John from Stoke-on-Trent
and Evelyn & John from East Lothian.
We have the full responsibility of raising the necessary £25,000 each year to keep
the school open.
We provide a free education for 300 pupils and this involves paying all the teachers’
wages, purchasing all the equipment required by the school and paying all the other
bills, including electricity and water bills.
A gift of £30 a year will contribute towards a child’s education and also to the
further development of the school community.
If the Gift Tax Form is also completed it means that we can claim another £7.50 from
the Inland Revenue making the gift worth £37.50 in total.
Supporters are provided with a photograph of a ‘link’ child, regular newsletters
and summaries of the head teacher’s reports.
For further information please see http://www.mikoroshoniprimaryschool.org.uk/index.html
The Story of Agneta & Baraka
In December 2004 Kerry & Natalie from Australia went to Mombasa with their 6 year
old son & 3 year old daughter. Their aim was to help out at a local orphanage for
10 weeks. It was around Christmas time and they asked if there were any families
living close by who were in need of help. They were directed to some squatters who
were living in a shanty house on Government land, on the edge of Shanzu village.
On New Year's Day 2005 they took some Ugali (made from maize flour) and meat to the
The first person they met was a shy and bewildered girl called Margaret who was then
12years old. With her was her nephew, Baraka. They were in the care of Margaret's
mother who was away for the day selling firewood. This gave her an income of about
50/- (40pence) per day.
Kerry & Natalie asked if there was anyone else. They were shown a very sick child
- Agneta who was about 20 months old. Her limbs were swollen and she was almost lifeless.
It was obvious that Agneta was going to die if there was no intervention.
Kerry & Natalie waited for Agneta's grandmother to return to obtain her permission
for them to care for Agneta over the next few weeks.
Agneta was diagnosed with Chronic Malnutrition & daily visits to the doctor were
necessary. The next few days were very harrowing as Agneta could not keep anything
in her stomach & had chronic diarrhoea. But thanks to Natalie's devoted care Agneta
gradually made a full recovery.
In January 2009 Kerry & Natalie contacted us and asked if Agneta & her brother, Baraka
could be enrolled at Mikoroshoni. Our answer was a definite "Yes". At first Joshua
had to go to collect the children & ensure that they were both provided with school
uniforms. Now they attend school regularly. Agneta is in KG2 & Baraka is in Standard
1. They have their porridge breakfast each morning and Joshua tells us that the teachers
take it in turns to give them extra lessons so that they can catch up with their
Here is our video of the swim-tech teaching in Kenya.