KINGSTON — Hundreds of students at the Pembroke Hall Primary School in Kingston have been given access to free eye screening services, to ensure that sight related defects are treated from the earliest onset.
The screenings, which began on October 26 and ended on October 27, was made possible through the Lions Club of Kingston and the Canadian High Commission, through the Canada Fund for local initiatives.
Canada, through the Canada Fund, has contributed $1,396,200 (CDN$12,812) to the Lions Club of Kingston for the project.
The money will be used to conduct mobile sight screening of 3,500 school children between the ages of 6 to10 years in seven inner city communities. It will also be used to improve the capacity of the Sight Conservation Clinic to provide sight screening and sight conservation services to 600 adults aged 18 years and over in at least 15 inner city communities.
Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Stephen Hallihan, said that many Jamaicans, especially children, are unable to access adequate eye screening and corrective services for several reasons.
These include: the inability to access private services due to cost, or limited knowledge as to the importance of early detection and corrective measures.
He was speaking to journalists today, during a visit to the institution to get a firsthand look at the operations of the mobile sight screening clinic.
The High Commissioner said that the eye screenings will ensure that children at the institution are learning effectively and are not held back in the school system and later on in life.
“One of the things we always take for granted is that when the kids come to school, they will be able to see the blackboard, they will be able to read their school texts and they will have vision, because without vision in a normal classroom setting, you can’t learn and you can’t succeed in education,” he said.
Principal at the institution, Norma McNeil, said she is grateful for the initiative. “Sometimes we know of children who have problems seeing, but we know that their parents cannot afford (it), so when the screenings are done, it is really something good,” she told JIS News.
She noted that children who need additional assistance are referred to an ophthalmologist. “If they are to get glasses, it will cost less than being screened privately,” she added.
Past President of the Lions Club of Kingston, Major Desmon Brown, said the project is a critical component of its outreach programme and seeks to assist those in need. He thanked the Canadians for their contribution.
The early detection and treatment of sight related defects is an essential element in Jamaica’s sight conservation programme. Identifying and addressing eyesight deficiencies, especially of children in challenging circumstances, is critical in this regard.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter