Joy is nine years old and attends the Comprehensive Academy Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Joy enjoys playing balance ball - a game similar to dodge ball - outside school and would like to be a banker when she grows up as her favourite subject is maths.
Unfortunately, Joy has a refractive error and had difficulties at school as she could not see the blackboard and miscopied her school work. She also struggled at home because she could not see the television clearly and had to sit very close to the screen and squint to see.
Luckily, Joy’s father, who is a pastor, attended a workshop held by Sightsavers for World Sight Day. After the workshop her father realised what the problem was and even asked Joy for her forgiveness for shouting at her. He took her straight to an eye clinic where she was checked and glasses were prescribed for her. When she started using the glasses things greatly improved and she was able to write properly and started catching up at school.
Joy’s father was hugely relieved when she received her glasses. However, he was concerned as some people at her school had made negative comments about the glasses saying she was just pretending that she needed them and was acting superior. As refractive errors are not widely understood in many developing countries, many children like Joy find that they are subject to prejudice and bullying, making them reluctant to wear the glasses, despite the benefits.
Poorna is nine years old and lives in the slums on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Poorna’s mother told Sightsavers that he had lost all interest in studying and his school work had deteriorated. His family had no idea that his eyesight was so poor until he was screened at school. Poorna was diagnosed with a refractive error and received his first pair of glasses in 2010. He has been told he must wear his glasses all the time and is taking time getting used to wearing them.
Many children like Poorna struggle needlessly at school simply because they do not have access to a simple pair of glasses to enable them to see clearly. This has a devastating effect on their education and their ability to take part in everyday activities.
Saukat is eight years old and lives with his family at the top of a sand dune in Agneu village in Bikaner, Rajasthan in India. The sandy village is close to the international border between India and Pakistan and is one of thousands of scattered communities in the Thar Desert where insecure livelihoods and poor health present significant daily challenges for the inhabitants.
Sadly, Saukat’s family represent a typical case of deprivation and marginalisation which are all too common in the region. Seven of the family’s eight children are visually impaired but the family were unable to afford medical treatment to diagnose and treat their problems. As a result of their low vision, the children were not able to regularly attend school.
In 2010, a Sightsavers supported project found the family and screened all eight children. Whilst some of Saukat’s siblings needed specialist treatment and education, Saukat and his brother Liakat were prescribed with low-vision glasses and were enrolled in the local school which they now attend regularly. Saukat said: “the low vision glasses are gateways to our new bright world.”
For many children like Saukat and Liakat the lack of a simple pair of glasses prevents them from receiving the education they so greatly need and desire to help them to gain employment in the future and work themselves free from poverty.
Fabiha - Pakistan
Fabiha is nine years old and lives in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. In 2008, when she was just six, she began to have difficulty in seeing the whiteboard at school and had a headache while reading, so her father took her for an eye examination. She was prescribed spectacles at the Layton Rehmatullah Benevolent Trust hospital and Fabiha started wearing them regularly.
But things changed when her classmates began calling her ‘Chasmay Walee Aunty’ (glasses aunt). “My uncle also calls me ‘Chishmish’ (one using glasses),” says Fabiha. “I feel ashamed when he says this to me.”
Fabiha is now reluctant to wear glasses, even though they have helped improve her studies.
Sushma - India
Sushma is 12 years old, and has severe low vision. She is the youngest of four siblings and lives in Chikahalli in India where she goes to the local government school at Benegenahalli.
Sushma has had glasses before, but was very reluctant to wear them as she got teased by the other children at school. As a result, her eyesight has deteriorated and she now has a prescription of minus 27.
Her mother, Pramila, said that before she wore glasses she found it difficult to learn at school and take part in things like running races. Sushma has been prescribed new glasses again, so that she is able to learn at school and take part in sports. However, due to her severe low vision, the lenses are very thick. This has made Sushma very unhappy and she doesn’t like wearing them at all. Sadly, she refuses to admit they can help her see better and is very worried about getting teased and bullied at school again.
Ayesha - Bangladesh
Ayesha is 14 years old and attends the Derai Girls High School in Sunamgonj district of Bangladesh. Her father is a farmer and her mother is a housewife who looks after Ayesha’s three brothers and two sisters. Ayesha experienced difficulties at school and complained of headaches and an inability to read the blackboard in the classroom. She had to sit at the front of the classroom to be able to see the board, but this wasn’t always possible given that there are around 90 children in each class.
In January 2010, a patient screening programme was held at the school. All of the students had a basic eye test and when a sight problem was detected, students like Ayesha were examined by doctors and refractionists who had come for the day from Sunamgonj VARD Eye Hospital.
After more thorough vision tests, Ayesha was prescribed glasses, which were made up for her on the spot at the school. She looked forward to not getting headaches anymore and not worrying about where to sit in the classroom. However, as she had never worn glasses before she was nervous about getting used to them. As glasses are not yet commonly available to children in many developing countries, many children who receive them are anxious about wearing them for fear of looking different or being teased.
For further case studies, visit the Sightsavers website