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JIS News

Students in Grades 1 and 6 at Primary schools throughout the Corporate Area, will have access to free eye screening and glasses over the next two years, through a project being carried out by the Foundation for International Self Help Development (FISH).
Following the awarding of a $22 million grant to the FISH clinic on Gordon Town Road in St. Andrew by the Culture, Health, Art, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, a team from the clinic has been visiting various Primary schools within the Corporate Area to conduct a number of eye screening sessions.
Executive Director of FISH, David Wilson, informed JIS News that team members have already visited nine schools, performed several eye screening exercises, presented glasses and have made referrals for the more severe cases.
He explained that the project was implemented after a proposal, which was submitted to CHASE, was approved. “Under this project, we are screening all the children for eye care in the Corporate Area. It is a programme which is extended over two years and we will be supplying them with glasses and also referring them to the ophthalmologist where the need occurs and also to the Bustamante Hospital for Children,” he added.
Explaining how the programme is carried out, Mr. Wilson said the team first call on the schools to inform the Principals, following which an arrangement is made for an eye screening team to visit the school.”Those who fail the test are actually brought or sent to the clinic where the optometrist will either do refraction for spectacles or they will be referred to the ophthalmologist,” he explained.
Since the screening began, Mr. Wilson said, at least one child had to be referred to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, while an 11 year-old girl was diagnosed with glaucoma. “I am sure a lot of these cases will turn up from time to time,” he said, adding that most of those students who have been referred to visit the clinic have received glasses.
The programme has been widely received in the schools, with many persons expressing a desire to have it extended to schools in the rural areas.
Mr. Wilson told JIS News that eventually the project could be taken to rural schools, but it was not possible at present, as it was a costly exercise.He said that parents have been very receptive to the project as in many cases they were unable to afford help for the child. “We find that some of the parents are very interested in the project, because they knew the child needed help but they couldn’t afford to have them treated. So I think this is a landmark in FISH’s development,” he said.
Giving a reason why grades 1 and 6 students are targeted in the programme, Mr. Wilson said this was necessary, as they had to follow international guidelines from Sight Savers. “It is not that we won’t see children who need help in the other grades. We ask the teachers to refer those children to us as well, but those would be separate from the project, although they would still be provided the service free of cost,” he said.