On the International Day of Education, as part of our year-long Focus on Child Eye Health, Priya Morjaria highlights the need to work with schools as the eye health sector to make an impact.
When the year 2020 started, we in the eye health sector were gearing up for a monumental year. We planned to take stock of all that had been achieved over the last two decades. Then, move forward with renewed energy and enthusiasm, taking into our stride new technology, innovations and think about how the eye health sector can align itself with the challenges such as climate change, sustainability, and the increasing need for services.
The world was then disrupted by Covid-19 into what seems like a never-ending cycle of restrictions and variants for many of us. It has affected all parts of the society forcing us to adapt. Amidst all this, a young demographic of our society – school going children have been thrown into a frenzy of many unknowns and frozen video calls. Education for many children continued, over virtual classrooms, through outdoor teaching where technology was not available and in some cases, it had to stop completely.
On this International Day of Education, we need to remind ourselves of the role that education plays in the future of our society. Focusing on how we as eye health professionals can accelerate progress towards building inclusive and equitable education systems and how do we contribute to sustainable development goal 4: Quality Education.
School eye health programmes are an integral part of work for many for us, be it advocacy, implementation, designing policy, funding or evaluation. These programmes are not new, we have built up expertise and evidence for what works and what we need to improve. This has provided us with a lot of scaffolding for what we as a sector can do. We are at a crossroads now, how do we work with the school health sector to achieve not only the health goals but education objectives? If we have learnt anything from the pandemic, it’s that all systems are interconnected and that when there are gaps in our systems, they need to be filled, to strengthen the whole system. Education and (eye) health are a part of this system and a holistic approach is required to achieve the ‘understanding of education as a human right, a public endeavour, and a common good’.
The Lancet Commission and the World Report on Vision have both highlighted that by improving eye health for children, we can have a profound impact on their education and quality of life. And by integrating evidence-based eye care services for children we can increase the opportunities for children to access the appropriate treatments at the right time.
As a sector we need to remind ourselves that we need to become an integral part of all systems and services that provide child and school health services. We can no longer work in silos. We need to keep at the forefront of our work, and harness the platform that schools can provide. Otherwise we will miss the opportunities we have to make an impact on a child’s education and their future.
Do check out IAPB’s new strategic plan, 2030 In Sight that outlines actions to achieve a world where no one experiences unnecessary or preventable sight loss. You can also be part radical change by joining IAPB for 2030 IN SIGHT LIVE. This will be a hybrid event at the World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE 2-3 March 2022 that will put a lens on sustainable change and practical action for the next decade.
Focus on Child Eye Health engages some of the world’s best and brightest thought leaders throughout the year to share knowledge, inspire action, discuss ideas and push Child Eye Health to the forefront of pressing development issues. It is supported by CooperVision.
Image on top: HAPPY BILDAD/Keith Kalu