Thu | Nov 21, 2019

Kids’ vision woes trigger call for eye-care school

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 12:43 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Dr Natalie Decook, of Indiana State University and a volunteer with Cornerstone Jamaica’s See Better, Learn Better’ programme, conducts a vision test on a student of Little London Primary School. Students were diagnosed and given glasses free of charge as part of Cornerstone’s outreach programme that is being conducted in schools across western Jamaica. Kenyon Hemans/Photographer
Dr Natalie Decook, of Indiana State University and a volunteer with Cornerstone Jamaica’s See Better, Learn Better’ programme, conducts a vision test on a student of Little London Primary School. Students were diagnosed and given glasses free of charge as part of Cornerstone’s outreach programme that is being conducted in schools across western Jamaica. Kenyon Hemans/Photographer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica should establish an optometry school in order to provide improved eye care, particularly for students whose learning is compromised by poor vision, an advocate has urged.

Gary Robinson, founder of the non-profit organisation Cornerstone Jamaica, made the recommendation in an interview with The Gleaner during Wednesday’s Cornerstone Jamaica’s fourth annual ‘See Better, Learn Better’ eye care clinic at Little London Primary School in Westmoreland.

“This is a serious health issue that is eminently fixable, and unlike trying to cure cancer or hunger, we can fix this problem. We have to have an optometry school in Jamaica. We must grow our own doctors, and employ people in making the glasses and frames here in Jamaica. This is our ultimate goal down the road,” said Robinson, whose organisation was founded in 2015.

“Sometimes kids don’t even know they need glasses and they are called stupid and dunces. We feel that with the right pair of eyeglasses, we can shore up their confidence, and we can help them,” explained Robinson. “They will still have to do the work, but we can give them a big boost towards a better life for themselves and, consequently for their country.”

Nerissa Stephens, acting principal at Little London Primary, confirmed that impaired vision was perhaps a factor in poor academic outcomes in the country.

“If students have eye issues, then it will have an impact on their ability to garner information, which will, in turn, affect their academic excellence. Some parents are unable to provide the eye care because it is quite expensive in Jamaica, so they defer from doing the eye care and have the children in the regular educational system and the difficulty gets to a worse stage,” said Stephens.

Since its formation, Cornerstone Jamaica has screened more than 3,500 students for eye care treatment and has prescribed glasses for approximately 550 children.

In September, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced that his ministry, through the Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Programme, would give special focus to underserved members of Jamaica’s population, including schoolchildren.

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