Habiba became a swimming teacher by chance. It wasn’t something she had been thinking of or planning, but she’s very pleased she did.
Habiba says: “I started taking some swimming lessons as an adult to improve my stroke and technique, and slowly but surely I realised how much I enjoyed being in the water. It was my own swimming teacher that suggested I should think about training to become a swimming teacher. I was pregnant whilst having my lessons and have found since qualifying that teaching swimming fits around my family life.”
Habiba now works where she originally had her lessons. Habiba says:
“There are many wonderful things about being a swimming teacher. It’s a job that keeps you alert, as no two lessons are the same. It’s wonderful to watch children grow in confidence and to see them swim their first few metres for the first time. It’s a privilege to share their accomplishment with them.
“I have also really enjoyed working with children with special educational needs. Being in the water can give them a great sense of freedom and achievement, which always makes me smile.”
Habiba wants to encourage other people from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds to consider a swimming teaching career. She says:
“They should just go for it! It’s a fun job! They’ll fall in love with it, just as I have. There’s lots of great moments poolside, and by retraining to be a swimming teacher they are breaking down cultural stereotypes and taking the first steps to encourage others to follow their lead.
“As an Asian woman, my generation simply weren’t taught to swim. That is why I am so passionate about more teachers coming from black and Asian communities. There was a whole generation of children that simply didn’t learn to swim due to cultural variations, with the only access they had to water being the national curriculum primary school swimming classes. Now that I am a mother myself it was so important to me that my children learnt to swim and are safe around water; as soon as they were old enough I sent them to swimming lessons.
“I believe we are starting to see a shift in diversity within swimming, and so it’s important that young people and children see me, as a young Asian woman, poolside. I want all ethnic groups to be represented in swimming.
“People from a BAME background might be more likely to send their child to swimming lessons if they saw other BAME people leading the lessons. They might feel the swimming school is more aware of cultural and language needs too.
“It’s also important that more women train as lifeguards, because swimming pools are now offering women-only swim sessions but still having male lifeguards, which defeats the entire objective.”