Children to receive free spectacles through African Eye Institute’s collaborative World Sight Day initiative

Children to receive free spectacles through African Eye Institute’s collaborative World Sight Day initiative
Children to receive free spectacles through African Eye Institute’s collaborative World Sight Day initiative

According to the World Health Organisation’s ‘World Report on Vision’, at least 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment or blindness – of which at least 1 billion are preventable. To address this challenge, the African Eye Institute (AEI) – in partnership with CooperVision and 2.5 NVG Essilor Group Initiative – will be providing free eye examinations and donating free spectacles at two schools based in the South of Durban in celebration of World Sight Day (WSD) which takes place on Thursday, 14 October 2021.


Following this year’s theme, ‘Love Your Eyes’, the activation will take place at Siyabonga Secondary School in Illovo from 28 to 30 September 2021; and at Amagcino Primary School in Umgababa from 12 to 14 October 2021. The AEI optometry team will perform vision screening and eye examinations on pupils.  Spectacles will be dispensed to those in need at no cost. Joining the team on the activation will be the school management team, parents and representatives from the Department of Education.


WSD, which falls on the second Thursday of October, is used to highlight the need for such interventions. With the global pandemic putting a strain on resources and medical care, these screenings are particularly important. As Kristan Gross, global executive director of the Vision Impact Institute, explained: “Good vision is a problem with a solution. When we solve for good vision, we impact so many other issues that need attention, especially at this time. Research shows that good vision can have a positive impact on worker productivity, children’s education, safer mobility on the roads, and gender equity.”


AEI is a Durban-based non-profit organisation whose work spans South Africa, extending into other African countries. The team aims to provide eye health services to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through its ‘One School at a Time’ project, they’ve been seeking early eye health intervention for the past two decades by visiting schools within poorer communities. These life-changing activations are reliant on generous donations, and can only happen as and when funds are available. 


For this year’s WSD 2021 screenings, AEI worked with community activists in Durban South to identify two schools as beneficiaries. Principal of Siyabonga Secondary School, Bongani Nkanyiso Arnold Dlomo, expressed the school’s gratitude for being selected: “We are extremely delighted about the vision screening programme and both teachers as well as parents are so excited about this project. It has never been done at our school before and that’s why we feel blessed and honoured to receive this programme. Pupils will benefit a lot because eyes play a pivotal role in their learning.”


Commenting on the importance of this project, Professor Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, chairman of AEI, said: “WSD is all about educating, inspiring, and creating a conversation about eye health issues that are often overlooked. At the AEI, we know that early detection and treatment can save a child from a life of blindness and the cycle of poverty. Correcting vision loss early and increasing school participation and academic achievement not only benefits the child, but also benefits communities and economies.”


5 ways you can get involved this World Sight Day


Mashige said the AEI is encouraging others to participate in WSD 2021 by raising awareness in their communities through their ‘Everyone Counts’ campaign.


“If Everyone Counts, we need to think about more than just our own eye health, we need to raise awareness for those who don’t have access to vision care. In the month leading up to World Sight Day, we are calling on everyone who can to make an effort to have their eyes checked. Over 90% of vision loss can be prevented, so you need to pledge to ‘Love Your Eyes’!”


1. Cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the leading causes of visual impairment today. Book an eye examination today to catch this early. 


2. Good eye care begins at the workplace. If you lead an organisation or are involved in Human Resources, organise an eye examination for your employees this WSD.


3. Children with a vision impairment often achieve poorer educational outcomes or drop out of school so get your child’s eyes tested today.


4. Vision loss should not be merely accepted as part of aging. The lives of millions of older adults can be improved by health-interventions. Make sure that the elders in your family get an eye examination.


5. Consider contributing towards AEI’s One School at a Time Project.


The IAPB (International Association for the Prevention of Blindness) has several helpful resources at For further information on AEI activations and World Sight Day, contact AEI public relations officer Nad Ramsarup at [email protected] or call 065 994 9862.