JOHANNESBURG - Life Healthcare and the South African National Council for the Blind on Tuesday, donated R12 million to Optima College for the training and skills development of blind and partially sighted people.

The R12 million was officially acknowledged with the unveiling of a plaque and cheque handover at an event presided over by the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Ipeleng Bogopane-Zulu.

Eugene Modiri Matshwane, acting national Executive Director of SANCB and Principal of the Optima College said partnerships like these demonstrate the value of the commitment of the private healthcare sector to uplifting socio-economic conditions of disadvantaged communities, and improving their quality of life. 

“We are grateful to have the Life Healthcare Group as a strategic partner since they understand the importance of skills development for people with visual impairment. Ultimately the objective of the training is to enable students to maximise their potential and to function as independently as possible," he said.

"At the same time funding gives students an opportunity to compete competitively with their sighted counterparts for limited job opportunities available in the open labour market.” 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) an estimated 253 million people globally live with vision impairment, 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment.

The prevalence of vision impairment in South Africa is the highest of all disabilities at 32% and it is estimated that 97% of all blind and partially sighted people in the country are unemployed.

Since 2006, Life Healthcare, in partnership with the SANCB and the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness Unit have screened 53,845 patients using two mobile eye clinics fitted with mobile ophthalmic equipment. A third mobile clinic was added this month at a cost of R1 million donated by Life Healthcare.

Shrey Viranna, the group chief executiveecutive officer of Life Healthcare Group said the unemployment rate of people with vision impairment exceeds that of the general population due to the often inaccurate perception that they are unable to carry out daily tasks.

“As a leading player in the healthcare industry Life Healthcare is well-positioned to not only contribute to the improvement of health outcomes in South Africa, but to provide education and empower people from disadvantaged backgrounds to take responsibility for their health,” said Viranna.

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African News Agency (ANA)