The two words defined the day for 116 pupils at Ekuthuleni Primary School, Ntuzuma. “Eyes Right!” wasn’t a military command to the “troops” lined waiting for the team from the African Eye Institute (AEI). Rather they were what would mark the day as a turning point in their educational journey. The eager young crowd were there to receive their new spectacles prescribed after the children’s screening as part of AEI’s OSaaT (One School at a Time) project.
Non-profit AEI works to reduce avoidable blindness and vision impairment caused by refractive errors and other eye deficiencies and, through donations and partnerships, supports free, quality eye health services to marginalised communities, particularly schoolchildren and the elderly.
Thobile Msani, head of The Domino Foundation’s Life Skills programme, talked about how the children’s lives would be impacted by their clearer vision of the world around them: “A lot of these learners have many challenges which have negative effects on their ability to really benefit from their schooling. Not being able to see clearly in class makes everything far more difficult. Children with poor eyesight find it harder to identify and interpret what they are seeing which creates difficulties in much of their education.” She explained that the spectacles not only mean the children can now see the board at the front of the class more clearly and how better vision helps learners’ brains take in, organise and interpret information. Some children have close-up vision deficiencies which can affect hand-eye coordination and delay reading and language skills development. Social and physical development can also suffer.
AEI’s Head of Programmes, Nad Ramsarup, described how his organisation has been providing free vision screening to hundreds of underprivileged schoolchildren in KZN and other provinces: “We don’t only provide spectacles but also refer some children to hospitals if further intervention is needed.” He said that 121 Ekuthuleni pupils had been identified for extra care and treatment for vision problems.
The OSaaT programme’s large-scale school screenings would not be possible without its sponsoring partners: Berkeley Vision, CooperVision, OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, Transitions, Optometry Giving Sight, and Peek Vision.
Nad can be contacted at email@example.com for more information on AEI’s OSaaT (One School at a Time) project.
Pic 1: AEI’s Kesi Naidoo shares in Mratiwa Moloi’s delight as the world comes into focus at the fitting of spectacles at Ekuthuleni Primary School.
Pic 2: Grade 1 pupil at Ekuthuleni Primary School, Xola Magikane, is delighted as the world comes into focus after he received spectacles through the African Eye Institute.
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