They say giving is more important than receiving. But imagining the pure joy on a child's face when receiving free glasses and gaining full value from their education to kick-start their school year is a gift in itself.
Thanks to Vodacom, learners between grade R and 10 in the Paarl, Cape Town can now have their eyes tested and receive free glasses. Vodacom has purchased 369 pairs of glasses worth R80 000 to be provided to learns who come from disadvantaged communities.
Vodacom recognises that literacy is a crucial cornerstone for successful education. Yet, many children struggle to learn to read and write at school not because they are incapable, but because they have impaired vision.
With that in mind, it would seem a simple issue to address: It is estimated that glasses can correct the impaired vision of six out of 10 children in South Africa. The challenge lies in that only 20% of these children needing glasses have the resources to acquire them.
The lack of access to affordable vision care is caused by several factors, including the inability to afford private visual screening, a lack of vision care knowledge among parents and teachers, and limited public service optometry in rural areas.
In response to this challenge, Vodacom is supporting the Gift of Vision programme in partnership with the Western Cape Health Department and the Health Foundation. The programme provides young underprivileged children with the gift of vision through the sponsorship of screenings and glasses.
“It would be a tragedy if the reason children cannot read is not because they do not have the ability but because they cannot see properly.” – Debbie Schӓfer, Western Cape Minister of Education
Changing lives for better futures
This is the first time that Vodacom is partnering with the Gift of vision programme.
Alberts Breed, Managing Director of Vodacom Western Cape explains: “We recognise the critical role that vision plays in education. Through the Gift of Vision we are determined to help provide the means to these school children to have their eyes tested and their vision corrected – so that they may gain the full value from their education.
“Our partnership with the Health Foundation and the Western Cape Health Department will be a direct, effective way of addressing this challenge head-on and making a very real difference to the way of life for these learners, and their families.”
Bringing preventative care to where it’s most needed
The Western Cape Departments of Health and Education deliver a school health service as mandated by the National Integrated School Health Policy. This aims to bring preventative health care to children at their places of learning. This is an important aspect of the programme, due to the large number of families who have extreme difficulty in taking their children to health services. School nurses visit schools and screen children along various health and wellness indicators, including vision testing.
Children who are identified with vision problems are referred for further screening by a private optometrist contracted to the Department of Health. The optometrist then visits the schools with professional equipment to conduct a comprehensive eye test and identify the children’s precise eye care prescription needs.
Prescription spectacles are delivered to the school by a professional dispensing practitioner within two weeks of the initial assessment. The donated spectacles come in a protective case, and the children are taught how to use and take care of them.
Launching the Gift of Vision
The Gift of Vision was launched at a community event where learners were presented with their new glasses by the Ministers of Health and Education, Vodacom, Western Cape Health Department and The Health Foundation representatives. They also received flash cards to take home as a reminder to them and their parents of the importance of eye care and the role vision has in a good education.
Vodacom ConnectForGood allows Vodacom employees to make contributions to specific upliftment programmes, community development initiatives and any other causes that they are passionate about. Employees volunteer their skills, time and resources, depending on their abilities and what the needs are. An intranet platform lists all participating NGOs, so that Vodacom employees can match what they can provide with what is required by these organisations.
“We are confident – and determined – that through Vodacom ConnectForGood we will be able to make a continued difference in the lives of our fellow citizens, both with large projects like the Gift of Vision, and by making our individual contributions,” Breed concludes.