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We can see clearly now

Malwande Zakwe, 7, receives a new pair of spectacles yesterday, ahead of going to the cinema for the first time. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Malwande Zakwe, 7, receives a new pair of spectacles yesterday, ahead of going to the cinema for the first time. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 26, 2022


Durban - Lots of excited giggles and shy smiles of wonder. This was the reaction of a group of children who put on spectacles for the first time yesterday, opening their eyes to a world of possibilities.

It was also the first time many of them had been to a cinema to watch a movie.

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A collaborative effort by St John Eye Clinic and Ster-Kinekor saw the children, from Pietermaritzburg, visiting the Watercrest Ster-Kinekor complex yesterday morning, taking their seats to test drive their new glasses – along with popcorn and cool drink for the full movie experience.

World Optometry Week, from March 21-25, highlighted the need for proper eye care for everyone across the globe. An estimated 75% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable, and the global focus is to encourage people to take an eye test.

Putting on her new glasses, 9-year-old Siziphiwe Jaca said: “I feel great and I’m excited to see a movie.” A shy Phiwe Maphumulo, 6, said: “yes, I can see better now”, as he looked around, taking it all in. Melokhule Sithole, 10, said: “I’m feeling good with these glasses.”

Ariana Moonsamy, 12, said: “I can see the small writing now. I can see near and far and I’ll be able to see the blackboard clearly.”

From left: Malwande Zakwe, Andile Khwaza, Avela Ndakane and Melokuhle Sithole in the front of a group of children at Watercrest Mall who were given free spectacles. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Since 2018, Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg has experienced a critical backlog in dispensing spectacles because of the high demand from people who cannot afford private eye care.

Eighty children had been flagged as needing glasses, but remained on the waiting list.

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So St John Eye Clinic in Pietermaritzburg and Ster-Kinekor teamed up to find a solution.

As the hospital already had the children in their system, and had their eyes tested and scripts prepared, St John Eye Clinic was able to make spectacles for each child.

With assistance from Ster-Kinekor, each child received a pair of glasses free of charge.

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Yesterday, Ster-Kinekor’s head of transformation and wellness, Geraldine Engelman, who was at the Watercrest Mall cinema, said that R2.50 from each movie ticket sold went to its corporate social initiative, Vision Mission, which was started in 2005. Since that time, about 70 000 spectacles have been provided, as well as cornea transplants and prosthetic eyes.

Speaking before the start of the movie, Yurisa Naidoo, chairperson of the Professional Board of Optometry and Dispensing Opticians, highlighted the need for early detection and correction of visual impairment.

“Vision plays a critical role in physical and cognitive development in a child, and remaining uncorrected can have a huge impact on a child from learning to health and wellbeing into adulthood.”

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Not being able to see and follow what was happening in the classroom often gave rise to behavioural problems and poor outcomes, which could be avoided with spectacles, said Naidoo.

Fatima Hoosen, national director of eye care at St John Eye Clinic, said everyone had the right to sight, including those who are “uninsured, unemployed or economically compromised”. St John provides affordable professional eye testing and dispensing of budget spectacles.

“We hope that these spectacles will bring light to your lives,” she said to the children.

St John Eye Clinic optometrist Sanchia Jogessar said the onset of Covid-19 had created an even greater need for people to rely on digital devices, which strain the eyes.

“Now, more than ever, we encourage people to be aware of eye care. So much of our children’s education has been taking place online.

“With children going back to school, eye care should be on the check list, alongside uniforms, stationery and text books,” said Jogessar.

The Independent on Saturday

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