Emmanuel is a 12 year old boy who didn’t attend school. He wished every day he could go with the other children in the village but he had been nearly blind since birth. He spent his days in his village which he knew well enough to get around. His local community tried to look out for him to help him stay safe.
His mother was very unhappy about Emmanuel not being able to go to school. She also wished he could help out with the daily chores as she worked every day in the fields on the family farm. His grandparents used to mind Emmanuel during the day so his mother could work, but his grandmother was becoming more concerned as her eye sight was beginning to dim.
Emmanuel had a cousin, Yusuf, who was very kind to him and used to take time to tell him stories about school and other villages that Emmanuel could not visit. It was Yusuf who helped save Emmanuel from lifelong blindness.
Yusuf had good eyes and was very interested in school. He learnt one day that his teacher had been trained in screening the school children’s eyesight. Yusuf had his eyes tested like all the other children, and all the while he thought of his cousin Emmanuel. He told his teacher about Emmanuel and sadly described his blindness.
Some weeks later the teacher asked again about Emmanuel and gave him a note to take home to his Aunty, Emmanuel’s mother. A few days later the teacher came home with Yusuf to meet Emmanuel. Yusuf was so happy he smiled the whole time. In the village he found Emmanuel’s mother so the teacher could talk to her.
Emmanuel had his eyes tested by the teacher and they discovered with great joy that he was not actually blind. He just had severe vision impairment which could be corrected by glasses. Both the little boy and his mother cried when Emmanuel realised for the first time he could see clearly wearing the trial lenses.
A few weeks later, still grateful for good news about her son and now also for his free spectacles, Emmanuel’s mother happily made the arrangements for her son to go to school for the first time. This was something she thought she would never have the pleasure of doing. Returning to the village after his first school day wearing his new uniform, Emmanuel smiled to his mother and Yusuf, saying, “My life is now beautiful and so is everything in the world. I feel like my life can begin now.”
Emmanuel’s teacher was trained in vision screening as part of a teacher training program that is funded in part by Optometry Giving Sight and implemented by the School of Optometry at Makerere University in Uganda, with support from Brien Holden Vision Institute.
Photos courtesy BHVI