Sight for sore eyes

Vision Mission has screened 277 800 pupils in poor areas

Vision Mission has screened 277 800 pupils in poor areas

Over the past eight years Ster-Kinekor Theatres has worked to ensure children’s eyesight improves so they do not fail at school or drop out altogether.

Through its Vision Mission initiative, it has provided spectacles for more than 10 000 learners, at a value of R12,4-million.

Healthcare workers and nurses involved in the project have to date screened 277 800 learners in poor areas.

Vision Mission recently signed a partnership agreement that aims to screen a further 50 000 children over the next three years.

This agreement culminated in the launch the South African School Eye Health Project on October 9, marking World Sight Day. Its partners are the Brien Holden Vision Institute, provincial health and education departments, and the South African Optometric Association.

The project plans to roll out eye care to pupils in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.

Geraldine Engelman, Ster-Kinekor’s corporate social investment and projects manager, said they would aim to “provide free pairs of spectacles to at least 2 500 learners suffering from refractive error and low vision”.

Dr Nina Kriel, president of the Optometric Association, said this project would contribute to the elimination of avoidable vision impairment and blindness.

“Such an undertaking would not be possible without the valuable input from the private sector, and we are extremely grateful for Ster-Kinekor’s enthusiasm and contribution to the project,” she said.

Ster-Kinekor’s project researchers estimate that six out of every 10 children in South Africa with reduced vision can be corrected with glasses, yet only 20% of the children who need glasses have them.

“Considering that up to 80% of what children learn is assimilated through their eyes, any form of vision impairment can adversely affect a child’s educational growth,” said Engelman.

Apart from improving children’s vision for learning, the company also wanted to ensure that beneficiaries could watch films at its cinemas without any hassles.

“Being able to walk into a darkened cinema and watch in wonder as a fantastical story unfolds before your eyes, in a larger-than-life format, is a wonderful experience,” said Engelman.

The project has partnered with Spec Savers to assist pupils, and has also had support from various government departments.