On June 16 we mark the International Day of the African Child. This day commemorates the June 16, 1976, student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, where students marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their own languages. They were brutally murdered, and this day remembers these children and the brave action they took in defense of their right to education.
The International Day of the African Child also celebrates all the children of Africa and raises awareness about the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to children across the continent.
Ensuring the Right to Education through the Right to Sight
Education is a fundamental human right. For children around the world, primary education is the foundation of the pyramid of learning. But when children are affected by eye conditions or vision impairments that impede their ability to see properly, their education suffers, which in turn has a negative impact on their self-esteem and future outcomes in education and employment. This is especially tragic when often the issue could be easily solved with an eye exam and a pair of glasses.
- Did you know? Only 1 out of 550 children in Africa have access to glasses.
OPC understands that healthy children are essential to sustainable development, ensuring the growth not only of the child, but also the economic and social growth of their communities and countries.
OPC developed #FORESIGHT, a unique program to deliver comprehensive eye care to schools, and to change the lives of school children and their teachers in some of the world’s most neglected communities. #FORESIGHT’s objectives are to screen 6.9 million people with visual acuity tests, ensure 1.7 million people are examined by an eye doctor, and equip 260,000 people with the glasses they need to correct their vision impairment.
OPC implements sustainable school eye health projects in 17 African countries, along with their Ministries of Health and Education, and local and international NGO partners. It does this by:
- Training teachers to deliver health education and perform visual acuity tests.
- Providing additional vision screens administered by eye care professionals for children at risk of eye illness, as well as for the school staff.
- Referring children to ophthalmologists as needed and proving necessary treatment and follow-ups.
- Ensuring best practices for eye health in schools nationwide and promoting awareness of preventable eye illnesses.
- Fully inclusive child-centered eye care services, which means more children staying in school and continuing their education.
- National policies to drive national school eye health programs, filling a knowledge gap to better integrate children within national eye health plans.
- Including vision acuity tests in the teaching curricula to reduce the cost of performing these tests and to disseminate knowledge among parents, teachers, children and local authorities.
- Sustainably adapting vision programs to each specific context, based on a wide range of glasses available at different costs, including free options for children in need of the most financial assistance.
- Better equipping comprehensive eye health facilities, ensuring they are able to carry out interventions from eye exams to treatments including prescribing glasses and performing surgeries.
These actions intend to strengthen school health programs and ensure more children have access to eye health services. Learn more about #FORESIGHT.
In honor of the International Day of the African Child, consider making a gift to support #FORESIGHT, safeguarding children’s right to education by providing school children in Francophone Africa with an eye exam and glasses.