The RLLA was started by the Lesotho Durham Link in 2004. LDL is an organisation based on the Anglican Church, which promotes youth activities, canoeing, lifesaving etc, and also hosts conferences. It operates a back-packers’ hostel. Its office is beside Maqalika Lake, in Maseru.
Until 2010, RLLA relied on LDL’s instructors, who awarded LDL’s Certificates. This was eventually found to be a problem, as it became difficult to find dates when LDL’s instructors were free when students in schools were also free to learn lifesaving skills. RLLA was also short of funds with which to pay the LDL instructors.
Starting in 2007, some schools had been organising training week-ends for interested students, and by 2010 some of these students had obtained certificates and wished to proceed further. RLLA therefore sought general assessment of all its active participants, and permission to affiliate to the Commonwealth.
This was arranged in April – May 2011, and was conducted by Mrs Pat Wilcox, an experienced lifesaving coach and assessor from Johannesburg. It was financed by the Irish Lifesaving Foundation. Mrs Wilcox recommended that RLLA be allowed to affiliate to Commonwealth as an independent organisation, that it issue its own certificates and awards, and that it make its own rules concerning qualifications for instructors and assessors.
We give three awards, the Basi c Certificate, which involves theory, CPR and rescues by reaching, throwing, wading and swimming with an aid; the Intermediate Certificate which adds most of the requirements for Bronze Medallion, but with no time stipulation; and the Bronze Medallion, which is based on the UK’s syllabus with minor adaptions to suit Lesotho’s conditions. Last year we added a higher award, the Bronze Cross, and so far seven people have gained it.
An examiner must have the Bronze Medallion, and be acceptable to the other examiners. Examiners may award Basic and Intermediate certificates, but to award a Bronze Medallion there must also be a Senior Examiner present. This is a person who has the Bronze Medallion and is of mature age, and acceptable to the other senior examiners. There are at present three such persons in the country.
Our policy has been to train lifesavers, not lifeguards. This is because Lesotho has no legislation at all on pool safety, so jobs as lifeguards in Lesotho are unlikely to be available, and their qualifications would probably not be recognised in South Africa.
Most drownings occur in village dams and rivers which are completely unsupervised. We hope, over time, to build up a group of young people with the skills to rescue someone if need arises, while at the same time raising public awareness of water safety.
Since 2011, we have awarded 155 Basic certificates, 32 Intermediate, 17 Bronze Medallions and 7 Bronze Crosses.
We receive no financial support from the government. Schools are limited by the government in the fees which they can charge, so we can not ask for more than a token subscription on M250.00 per year. If adults come forward and request training we would ask for M50.00, but this seldom happens. We therefore rely on donations or support in kind from friendly companies, diplomatic missions or other lifesaving organisations.