"I thought it was normal to have bad vision."
A lack of eye care and ignorance about eye health can not only have an adverse effect on learning but also on family relationships.
Tshegofatso, a 14 year old student from South Africa, was straining to see the text in her class books.
“I was really worried at school because all I wanted to do was close my eyes and let them rest,” she said. “I thought it was normal to have bad vision.”
When Tshegofatso told her parents about what was happening she was met with skepticism.
Her parents wondered if she was acting up. After Tshegofatso insisted she had something wrong with her vision they dutifully observed her for some time and noticed that she struggled to read newspaper articles and her textbooks.
“I never had eye problems during my primary school studies,” Tshegofatso said. “I only started having troubles reading towards the end of last year, especially after looking at the board for a long time. When my mother said we should go for an eye test, I was happy,” she explained.
Tshegofatso was fortunate to visit the eye clinic at the Nike Football Stadium in Soweto, home to the “We See” Child Eye Health project being funded by VSP Global with support from Optometry Giving Sight, and implemented by Brien Holden Vision Institute. Here she was given an eye examination and was prescribed with spectacles.
“I am very happy that my vision problem will be helped using spectacles. So I appreciate the help that I received from this clinic, and even if other children tease me about spectacle wear, I will not care,” she said.
Tshegofatso’s mother is very happy that her daughter can see well enough to continue her studies and not have to struggle with headaches.
A key objective of the “We See” project is to establish the School Eye Health Program as a sustainable and efficient model of delivering eye health services to children and develop and integrate school eye health indicators into the Education and Health systems.
To date, 59,372 children have been screened and 1,352 spectacles have been prescribed. 26 school health nurses have been trained in Primary Eye Care improving their skill in screening for eye care conditions. Local optometrists have also received additional training in new mobile screening technologies such as Eyenetra. The program is implemented with the support of Gauteng Department of Health.
Photo courtesy: Brien Holden Vision Institute