To coincide with the Education World Forum in London, HRH The Countess of Wessex, Commonwealth High Commissioners, politicians and leaders in eye health gathered to discuss the importance of eye health for children across the Commonwealth. The event, hosted by the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition, highlighted the importance of sight to educational attainment and the potential that can be unlocked through the provision of school sight screenings.
“Today, 90 million children in the Commonwealth are currently living with sight loss. As a result, these children have poorer educational outcomes, are more likely to be excluded from schools which has far-reaching consequences on their employment, earning potential and well-being,” highlighted Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill, High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda.
Building on the commitment to ‘quality eye care for all’ at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2018, The Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition has renewed its call for education ministers working in partnership with health ministers to commit to providing sight tests, affordable glasses, and other treatments for all children by 2030, guaranteeing increased school attendance, educational attainment and enabling long term social and economic opportunity by delivering clear sight.
Dr Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, said “Education is a fundamental human right but many children struggle to learn at school because of poor vision. Performance is affected if they are not given the educational support and the eye health care they need. Those in low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected – statistics show that children with sight loss are two to five times less likely to be in formal education.”
“The Vision for The Commonwealth Coalition is calling on Heads of Government of the Commonwealth to build on their commitment in 2018 to quality eye care for all. We are urging Education Ministers to work with Health Ministers to ensure crucially needed eye tests, glasses and other treatments are available to all children. This will would lead to increased school attendance and better educational attainment which, in turn, will enable long term social and economic opportunity,” added Chair of the Vision for the Commonwealth Coalition and IAPB CEO, Peter Holland.
Vision for the Commonwealth was launched by a group of six leading eye health organisations, charities, and campaign groups – IAPB, Sightsavers, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Peek Vision, OneSight and the International Coalition for the Trachoma Control – who have joined efforts to end avoidable blindness and poor sight across the Commonwealth. Vision for the Commonwealth is chaired by IAPB.