Introduction to the School Eye Health Project
The Seeing is Believing project in Singida region is known as Maono, which is the Swahili for “ability to see”. The project has been running since April 2016 and centres on treating adult cataract. It does not focus on children. Now, to help reduce the problem of low vision in children and increase access to eye care services in schools, Sightsavers has launched a two year (2018-2019) School Eye Health Project in Tanzania.
Being able to provide eye care services in schools is a fantastic opportunity to impact on the lives of children and their families. 80% of learning is visual, so this project will help to ensure that children with low vision can continue to learn, participate fully in society and have the best chance to be economically active in the future. This project will have a wide reach and a lasting impact due to the multiple, long-term benefits of good eye health for children.
The project works in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC), the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) and Regional Authorities in all seven districts of Singida. The project aims to contribute to the sustainable provision of school eye health in Singida, and has the following objectives:
- Strengthen human resources and health facilities to deliver refractive error services
- Girls and boys with refractive error and visual impairment access eye health services
The project will facilitate the training of two schoolteachers in each primary school which will enable the screening of more than 175,000 children aged 7-13. The project will bring together the regional education and health sectors in an integrated approach to support quality-learning outcomes for schoolchildren. Furthermore, the project will fund three newly equipped optical units to ensure that other age groups benefit from the improved refractive error services during and after the project.
Prior to the launch of the project, Sightsavers worked with the Regional Health Management Team to visit Ipembe and Mughanga primary schools. The teams conducted eye screening for 407 pupils (211 girls and 196 boys). 30% of those screened were diagnosed with refractive error, and given a prescription for spectacles.
In February 2018, Sightsavers, in collaboration with the Singida regional authority facilitated a two-day workshop to mark the start of the project. High-level government representatives and other partners, working in the sector, attended the workshop, including:
- Representatives from the MoHCDGEC and MoEST
- Assistant Regional Administrative Secretary, Regional Medical Officer and Regional Education Officer of Singida region· Regional Eye-care Coordinator and Regional Health Secretary
- District Medical Officers, District Health Secretaries, District Eye Care Coordinators, District Education Officers
- Tanzania League for the Blind Singida region representatives
The regional authorities expressed their deepest appreciation to Standard Chartered Bank and Sightsavers for their efforts to strengthen eye health delivery in Singida Region. The impact of the Maono project already been felt with a large number of people being reached and receiving spectacles, medication and surgery to restore their sight. The Guest of Honour on behalf of the Regional Commissioner urged all district authorities to ensure that all council plans allocate budgets for eye health. He emphasised the importance of every leader at every level creating demand and raising awareness on the importance of eye screening and wearing spectacles to ensure sustainability at the end of the project.
Towards the end of the launch, the Guest of Honour, with assistance from the optometrist, presented two pupils from Ipembe Primary School with spectacles, which had been prescribed during the screening at the school. The pupils expressed their happiness that they were able to see better with the spectacles. They also conveyed their gratitude to Sightsavers and hoped that the project would reach more children throughout its implementation.
SiB Project Assistant Sightsavers