Corporate Social Investment

New spectacles make learning easier for De Aar pupils

deaar1July 2015

Vision is a fundamental part of the learning process. Most of what children learn is acquired through visual processing of information. Clear and comfortable vision is thus critical for ensuring their ability to learn.

On Friday 19 June, 28 pupils from Emthanjeni Primary School, a school in the Northern Cape, De Aar, received brand new prescription spectacles from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), working in partnership with the Adopt-a-School Foundation as part of its Visual Support Programme.

It was a special day for the pupils in grades 4 to 7, who each received their own set of spectacles following screenings conducted in May by Dire Thomas, a professional optometrist committed to helping disadvantaged learners.

Many of the pupils were visibly overwhelmed when they discovered a new, clearer world around them. For some, who did not even realise that they had a problem with their sight, it was their first experience of seeing their environment in all its clarity.

Real reasons for 'talkative' learners often overlooked

"I am very happy because I can see better," said 12-year-old Sonwabile Sizani. "I always felt bad about not having good eyesight, because I would get in trouble for talking to classmates when all I was trying to do was ask what was written on the board.

"Now I am excited to use my spectacles in class. I hope this will help me learn better so I can pass all my subjects," he said.

deaar2For pupils from disadvantaged areas who suffer from problems with their vision, a number of factors often make it difficult for them to get spectacles. This includes the cost of eye tests, the distance that must be travelled to access eye care services, the lack of information about such services, and low public awareness of the importance of eye testing.

"Without vision, learning becomes difficult for pupils," said Dire Thomas. "You often hear of children that are talkative and disruptive in class. Teachers and parents label them as slow learners, not knowing they have issues with their eyesight. Vision problems can have a negative effect on understanding and performance in reading and writing, which constitutes most of a typical school day.

"So the real reason why these learners don't concentrate and are talkative in class gets overlooked."

Holistic solutions to education challenges

Tebogo Molefe, the IDC's senior manager for corporate social investment, said the initiative was one of the solutions that the IDC, together with the Adopt-a-School Foundation, had come up with for tackling the challenges faced by the Corporation's 20 adopted schools in a holistic manner.

"In working with the schools, we found out that one of the critical issues why pupils struggle in passing in high school is the quality of education the pupils receive in primary school," Molefe said.

Further investigation revealed that poor vision was one of the issues affecting children in these underprivileged communities.

deaar3"It is not that the children are slow learners or they cannot read, it is because of something as simple as poor vision," Molefe said. "We screened all the pupils at Emthanjeni Primary School and we identified 28 pupils with poor vision that we can support through our Visual Support Programme.

"Personally I am so happy for these pupils. Some of the parents did not even know that their children's education was being affected by poor vision. I am happy that the IDC is involved in these types of interventions because this programme will benefit the learning process."

Emthanjeni Primary School principal Nombulelo Virginia Moss expressed her gratitude to the IDC and the Adopt-a-School Foundation. "These children would not have had spectacles if it wasn't for this programme. I couldn't thank the IDC and the Adopt-a-School Foundation enough for empowering these pupils.

"They look so beautiful, like future doctors and professors," she added.

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