Rotary eye-testing programme in action

Happy pupils at Disa Primary School in Imizamo Yethu show off their new spectacles.

Pupils at Imizamo Yethu’s Disa Primary School can see clearer now, since the Hout Bay Rotary Club launched an eye-testing programme there.

The Rotary Club, with the help of Jonga Trust, outfitted 28 children from Grade R to 7 with glasses this past Tuesday.

Alan Richards, community services director for the Hout Bay Rotary Club, said they had chosen the school for their pilot project because it was smaller than other schools in the area, allowing for the first leg of the project to run smoothly.

The school’s 161 children had their eyes tested by Jonga Trust optometrists in April. Jonga Trust is a non-profit organisation that screens and manages eye health for disadvantaged people across the country.

Diane Powell, an ophthalmic nurse with Jonga Trust, recalled testing one boy’s eyes.“I noticed he could barely see anything and asked him how he manages to work in class. He told me he waits until everyone
leaves the classroom, then he goes up to the whiteboard to copy down the work. He was too embarrassed to tell anyone he couldn’t
see.”

Chris Eksteen, a Jonga Trust optometrist, said projects like the Rotary Club one were essential to helping children perform at school.

“Literacy and numeracy issues in our country boils down to much more than simply understanding the work. Studies show 17%
of children in South African schools can’t see properly, and when learners can’t see the work, they can’t perform.”

Mr Richards said that during the eye tests, the optometrists had found that 20% of the Grade 1s needed glasses.

According to Mr Richards, the optometrists didn’t only pick
up on fuzzy eyesight, but also found three cases of severely contagious conjunctivitis.

“The three Grade R learners all received treatment after it was found their eyelids couldn’t open properly. While two of the
learners’ conjunctivitis could be treated with eye drops, one
little girl was treated under medical
care at the Red Cross Hospital since her one eye was completely shut.”

Mr Richards said schools should apply to the Jonga Trust and the Rotary Club two months in advance since their services were in high demand. Schools can visit jonga.org to learn
more.