A pupil receives free vision screening as part of the Love Your Eyes initiative. Picture Credit: James Arnold
A pupil receives free vision screening as part of the Love Your Eyes initiative. Picture Credit: James Arnold

Selected Durban south schools to receive free eye tests, spectacles through the Love Your Eyes initiative

By Karen Singh Time of article published Sep 22, 2021

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DURBAN - Pupils from two Durban South schools will receive free eye examinations and spectacles in celebration of World Sight Day (WSD).

World Sight Day takes place on Thursday, October 14.

The initiative themed “Love Your Eyes” is a partnership between Durban-based non-profit organisation African Eye Institute (AEI), CooperVision and the 2.5 NVG Essilor Group.

The initiative aims to address the challenges highlighted by the World Health Organization’s World Report on Vision, which stated that at least 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment or blindness - of which at least 1 billion are preventable.

The activation will take place at Siyabonga Secondary School in Illovo, September 28 to 30, and at Amagcino Primary School in Umgababa, October 12 to 14.

The AEI optometry team will perform vision screening and eye examinations on pupils. Spectacles will be dispensed to those in need at no cost, said a statement on Wednesday.

Joining the team on the activation will be the school management team, parents and representatives from the Department of Education.

Professor Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, chairman of AEI, said WSD is all about educating, inspiring, and creating a conversation about eye health issues that are often overlooked.

“At the AEI, we know that early detection and treatment can save a child from a life of blindness and the cycle of poverty. Correcting vision loss early and increasing school participation and academic achievement not only benefits the child, but also benefits communities and economies,” he said.

WSD, which falls on the second Thursday of October, is used to highlight the need for such interventions. With the global pandemic putting a strain on resources and medical care, these screenings are particularly important.

Kristan Gross, global executive director of the Vision Impact Institute, said good vision is a problem with a solution.

“When we solve for good vision, we impact so many other issues that need attention, especially at this time. Research shows that good vision can have a positive impact on worker productivity, children’s education, safer mobility on the roads, and gender equity,” she said.

For this year’s screenings, AEI worked with community activists in Durban South to identify two schools as beneficiaries.

Principal of Siyabonga Secondary School, Bongani Dlomo said he was grateful that his school was selected.

“We are extremely delighted about the vision screening programme and both teachers as well as parents are so excited about this project. It has never been done at our school before and that's why we feel blessed and honoured to receive this programme. Pupils will benefit a lot because eyes play a pivotal role in their learning,” said Dlomo.

AEI said the team aims to provide eye health services to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through the One School at a Time’ project, they’ve been seeking early eye health intervention for the past two decades by visiting schools within poorer communities.

“These life-changing activations are reliant on generous donations, and can only happen as and when funds are available,” said the organisation.

Mashige said the AEI is encouraging others to participate in WSD 2021 by raising awareness in their communities through their Everyone Counts campaign.

“If Everyone Counts, we need to think about more than just our own eye health, we need to raise awareness for those who don’t have access to vision care. In the month leading up to World Sight Day, we are calling on everyone who can to make an effort to have their eyes checked. Over 90% of vision loss can be prevented, so you need to pledge to ‘Love Your Eyes’!” he said.

There are five ways you can get involved this World Sight Day:

1. Cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the leading causes of visual impairment today. Book an eye examination today to catch this early.

2. Good eye care begins at the workplace. If you lead an organisation or are involved in Human Resources, organise an eye examination for your employees this WSD.

3. Children with a vision impairment often achieve poorer educational outcomes or drop out of school so get your child’s eyes tested today.

4. Vision loss should not be merely accepted as part of ageing. The lives of millions of older adults can be improved by health interventions. Make sure that the elders in your family get an eye examination.

5. Consider contributing towards AEI’s One School at a Time Project.

The International Association for the Prevention of Blindness has several helpful resources at www.iapb.org.

For further information on AEI activations and World Sight Day, contact AEI public relations officer Nad Ramsarup at [email protected] or call 065 994 9862.

THE MERCURY

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