Rabi with his teacher Bharati who identified his vision problems while at school in Nepal

The Teachers Making A Difference In Eye Health

May 2019

Those who can, teach. For many of the children we've worked with, it was school that first revealed issues with their sight. So as it's Teacher Appreciation Week, we're paying tribute to the wonderful, hard-working individuals who do so much to help their students. Read some of their stories below.

When it comes to children's eye health, it is often the adults around them who notice when something is not quite right. Issues with vision in young children might be revealed through play or in communication with family members, so in many cases parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives and friends are among the first to wonder whether a child is experiencing problems.

At other times, it is when a child starts school that their issues become obvious. Reading, writing, looking at the blackboard, even playing with friends: all of these activities are seriously impacted if a child is having problems with their sight, which is why teachers have such a significant role to play. Often they're the ones to identify when a minor problem starts to become a major issue.

This is why we work closely with schools around the world – including a number in Nepal. Our REACH (Refractive Error Among Children) screenings take place in schools, our partners run spot checks to make sure schoolchildren with glasses are wearing them, and we work closely with teachers on the importance of eye health. In fact, teacher support is one of the things that makes the REACH program so impactful. We couldn't do it without them.

Nisha

Megha with her teacher Nisha who first learnt of her sight issues when she struggled in the classroom

Teacher Nisha, from Nepal, noticed that her student Megha was having trouble in class

12-year-old Megha was struggling at school, Her teacher Nisha was concerned:

In the beginning while doing class work, she was uncomfortable. She was having difficulty in class. We asked her what her problem was and she replied she could not see properly.

Nisha

Teacher, Nepal

Megha loved reading, but as the issues with her vision became more pronounced she found she was less able to do the things she enjoyed – something that became clear to Nisha when Megha was asked to read aloud. Based on these observations, Nisha encouraged Megha and her family to have her eyes tested when the Orbis REACH screening camp came to her school. There, she was diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye); a condition that, if caught early, can be managed. Without treatment, though, it can lead to severe visual impairment and even blindness.

Now proudly sporting her new glasses, Nisha has noticed a big improvement in Megha's schoolwork. She has since caught up with the rest of her class and even has a new ambition – to be a teacher like Nisha.

Megha smiling for the camera after her teacher referred her for an eye screening

Megha wants to teach small children when she grows up – like her own teacher, Nisha

I want to become a teacher, an English teacher. I will teach in Nepal and I will teach small children.

Megha

Age 12, Nepal

Banchi

Teacher Banchi from Ethiopia runs school eye care clubs promoting education around eye health

Biology teacher Banchi, from Ethiopia, is one of the teachers making a big difference

Banchi is a Biology teacher from Ethiopia. Since she completed her Orbis-funded training in primary eye care and vision testing, she has had a huge impact on the eye health of her community, identifying 11 cases of trachoma in students and referring them for treatment.

The school eye care club she runs has 50 students, and as well as screening the children Banchi also teaches pupils about trachoma, eye care and the importance of good hygiene. Her students can also then share this knowledge with their families and in the wider community, helping to combat the spread of trachoma through knowledge sharing.

When I help a student, they are happy. Not just the students, but the community too!

Banchi

Biology Teacher, Ethiopia

BHARATI

Bharati teaching her students at school in Nepal

Bharati in the classroom with some of her students

Nepalese teacher Bharati was the first to notice that something was wrong with her 7-year-old student Rabi's vision:

...he used to cry when I used to ask him to read and write. I wrote something, and he slanted his head, I thought he was trying to escape. Later he told me that he cannot see properly and could only see things up close.

Bharati

Teacher, Nepal

It was Bharati who encouraged Rabi to come to a school screening, where he was diagnosed with high myopia, or short-sightedness. A few days later he got his first pair of glasses and now Rabi's life has been transformed, in school and out. He can see the blackboard, play with his friends and recognise his mother from a distance – all things he couldn't do before.

It was teacher Bharati who encouraged student Rabi to attend an eye screening

Without Bharati, Rabi's eye problems may not have been picked up so early.

Bharati is clear on the importance of vision and why programs like REACH make such a difference:

Eyes are very important; the world is dark without vision. We had never imagined a rare case like Rabi’s would exist – so it is very important.

Bharati

Teacher, Nepal

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