Our ongoing School Eye Health work in Sierra Leone is seeing great results, as so far this year mobile eye clinics have visited another 79 schools.

‘Vision friendly corners’ have been set up in all of the 159 schools targeted for this programme. These ‘Vision friendly corners’ include a drawing of the visual acuity test chart, eyecare health messages and information, which can be accessed by children, teachers, and parents to help them understand the need for eye care and the process of providing eye care.

We have held meetings with parents and teachers in all 159 schools. A total of 4,522 parents and 1,838 teachers attended. These meetings gave more information about eye health, the need for glasses and to encourage children who are given glasses to wear them.

The second phase of training for Optometry Technicians, Patricia Tarawally and Musa Conteh from Kenema Vision Centre was completed. The training focussed on paediatric optometry and dispensing and was carried out by a local optometrist, supported remotely by two UK based optometrists who are VAO volunteers.

To date, the teacher led screening has seen 40,266 children being screened for vision impairments, of which 55% were girls. Following this there will be more visits to schools by mobile eye clinics, the follow up provision of glasses and further training for the Optometry Technicians.

One student who benefitted was Simon (pictured above), a fifth-grade pupil from Kenema District. Simon had been complaining about his eyes for some time. He was struggling to see the blackboard at school so his teacher had moved him to the front row.

Happily, Simon was seen by the mobile eye clinic team and was diagnosed with myopia and was prescribed spectacles. Now Simon has his spectacles, he can see clearly, is able read his books and see the blackboard at school. Simon’s mother was very happy and said:

“Simon actually complained about his eyes, but we just felt he was complaining needlessly and did nothing about it. It was only when he told us that he was examined at the school and he was told that he needed spectacles to see well that we remembered what he was telling us. When he put on his spectacles, he can read very well. I want to say thanks to Vision Aid Overseas for the spectacles which are making my child see well. Without them my child would not have been able to read his books well and he may have lost his sight.”

 

This programme, made possible by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), started in late 2019 and will run for two years.

The aim of the work is to train teachers in vision screening and eye care, and to provide eye care and glasses to children and teachers who need them. The programme will also raise awareness about eye health and the need for glasses, as well as strengthening the local eye health services. This approach will embed eye care skills and knowledge in the community, and by improving health care systems, it will create long lasting, sustainable solutions.

 

Over the two years of the programme our goals are to reach 159 rural schools, screening 988 teachers and over 40,000 children and improving eye health in Kenema district of the Eastern Province.

 

To find out more about our school based eye health work please click here, and to find out more about our work in Sierra Leone please click here.