Brighter futures for Hout Bay

Pupils at the Kronendal Primary School being tested in the latest phase of tests being conducted by the Vision Project.

The future is brighter for Hout Bay primary school pupils who received spectacles as part of the Vision Project, which falls under the Rotary Club of Hout Bay.

With schools having almost gone back to normal, members of the Vision Project were finally able to give pupils the spectacles that had been ordered for them during lockdown.

Project manager Carolyn Herrick said that over the past two weeks, 31 pupils at Disa and Sentinel primary schools had received new glasses, thanks to the Rotary Club of Hout Bay and optical partner Jonga Trust.

“Vision testing was completed with all Grade 1 and 7 learners in March, which showed that 11% of all learners in these two grades required eyeglasses. However, due to lockdown, delivery of the glasses was delayed to September,” she said.

Pupils were also screened by a supervising medical sister to identify any additional eye problems such as conjunctivitis. Eye drops were purchased or referrals to specialists were provided to those in need of additional care, said Ms Herrick.

This month, eye tests and screenings of Grade 1 and 7 pupils will continue at Kronendal , Hout Bay and Oranjekloof primary schools.

“The Rotary Club of Hout Bay is committed to helping address sight problems so that these students will have a much improved chance of learning and progressing through school,” she said.

A pilot programme conducted in March 2019 at Disa Primary School, revealed that almost 15% of the pupils had eyesight problems and needed corrective glasses, with several also needing to be relocated in their classroom.

“With sight problems addressed, these children will have a much improved chance of learning and progressing through school,” Mr Herrick said.

The Vision Project is manned by the Rotary Club of Hout Bay’s Community Services team and uses the services of expert testers and a paediatric optometrist from Jonga Trust.

In the five schools in Hout Bay, which includes Disa, Sentinel, Kronendal, Hout Bay and Oranjekloof primary schools, there are approximately 1 100 children in the two school years they have chosen, namely Grade 1 being the first year of primary school and Grade 7 being the last year of primary school.

Ms Herrick said: “We have committed to testing Grade 1 and 7 students in these schools for three years.”

The project funds screening and testing of the children, provision and the personalised fitting of prescription glasses, provision of prescription eye drops for chronic cases of conjunctivitis, and a short training programme for the school teachers and assistants, to help them identify

and deal in the classroom with eyesight problems.

The annual cost of running the programme in five schools is approximately R150 000.

Ms Herrick confirmed that the Rotary Club of Hout Bay raised funds for a full programme rollout in 2020. For 2021, partial funding of around R83 000 has already been secured, including the Rotary funds of R25 000 and a matching District 9350 grant of R25 000 plus $2,000 from an overseas donor.

“These funds will cover most of the five schools for the upcoming 2021 academic year, but Rotary Club of Hout Bay is seeking supplementary funds from overseas partners totalling R216 750 over the next two years,” Ms Herrick said.

Rotary Club of Hout Bay president, Alison Rice, said the Community Services team was responsible for the planning, facilities organisation and administration of the Vision Project in each school.

She added that several preparatory visits were required as well as all-day on site attendance during the testing, which is needed to manage the control and flow of several hundred children.

“We believe that it’s absolutely critical for primary school learners to have their vision tested – and corrected where necessary – as their entire school life will be dependent on their eyesight,” Ms Rice said, applauding the efforts of Ms Herrick.

“Carolyn has been amazing with her single-handed commitment to resurrecting the vision testing in the three remaining schools and following up with the learners who need glasses. She is so super organised and has such a big heart. We should all be really grateful for her dedication and commitment,” she proudly said.

Theresa Acorn from Hangberg had her 12-year-old nephew, Tyrone, was tested and it was discovered that he was indeed struggling with his eye sight, something she said she would have “never known”.

Ms Acorn works in a factory and has to at times work two shifts in order to keep up with the bills.

“Although I care for him most of the time, I also have to work to keep the roof over our head and to support Ty (Tyrone). I always thought he was just a bit slower than the rest, but then discovered he was actually struggling to see properly,” she said.

“I am glad this has given him hope and I hope this will change everything for him at school.”

The Sentinel News approached the schools for comments, but they were unable to respond at the time of going to print due to ongoing assessments.

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