© Courtesy of Operation Eyesight and Peek Vision
Amandah is a girl with big dreams.
“I hope to be a designer when I grow up,” explains the fourth grader in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya.
Sitting in class, Amandah throws her hand into the air as her teacher asks the class a math question—but it wasn’t always this way.
“Before I got my glasses, I couldn’t see very well from afar, no matter how close I was to the blackboard,” says Amandah.
Last year, Amandah received free prescription eyeglasses through Operation Eyesight’s school eye health program. Launched in 2021, the program screened more than 110,000 children and 3,200 teachers for eye conditions across 209 schools in Uasin Gishu County, located in western Kenya near the Rift Valley.
It’s part of a focus on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including improving access to quality education and achieving gender equality.
Made possible through partnership with Kenya’s national government and Peek Vision, as well as the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Child Blindness Program, 1,234 students like Amandah received prescription eyeglasses, and more than 12,000 were referred to one of Operation Eyesight’s partner hospitals for advanced care such as cataract surgery.
Care for the Whole Community
Alice Mwangi, Operation Eyesight’s Country Director for Kenya, says school screening programs impact students’ families and others in their network.
“People often do not seek eye health care—or are simply unable to access it—for a variety of reasons. We also know that women and girls are more likely to suffer vision impairment and face barriers to care,” she says.
School eye health programs play an important role in educating parents, families and entire communities about health services in their area.
“Our work in Kenya’s schools connects students and their families with their local health system. This means children and their families are more likely to access health care, including eye health care, when they need it,” Mwangi says.
She adds that the program’s ‘train the trainer’ model equips teachers to identify students with eyesight problems.
“This means that the impact of school eye health programs is sustainable.”
The future of school eye health screening
Across Africa, Operation Eyesight’s school eye health programs in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia screened 125,000 students and teachers in 2021.
Today, Operation Eyesight is partnering with communities, focused on expanding school eye health programs in Africa and South Asia.
“Through our presence in schools, we are having a tangible impact on health outcomes for entire communities,” says Kashinath Bhoosnurmath, President and CEO of Operation Eyesight.
“That’s because our work goes beyond providing eye health care; we are empowering women and girls, and supporting gender equality and sustainability in countries where we work.”
With vision loss no longer standing in her way, Amandah says she’s confident her hope of becoming a designer will become a reality.
“I would like to thank the people who gave me the glasses,” she says. “Now that I can read and see well, I hope I will be able to achieve my dream.”
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Operation Eyesight an international development organization working to prevent blindness and restore sight.