Anjali, a Class II student of a Sealdah school, had trouble seeing the writing on the blackboard. But she never told her teachers or her parents about this. Finally, during an eye check-up camp, Anjali was found to have serious refraction errors — minus 7 in the right eye and minus 4.5 in the left. The girl was immediately given glasses, but the damage had been done.
A problem is staring us in the eye — more and more schoolchildren are suffering high refraction errors, which even their parents are unaware of. If undetected and uncorrected for long, poor vision could lead to blindness, warn doctors.
“We have come across several cases of schoolchildren with high refractive errors, during surveys conducted over the past year in schools in the city and adjoining areas. And in most instances, their parents didn’t have a clue,” said Jyotirmoy Dutta, head of department of ophthalmology, National Medical College and Hospital.
For over a year, a team of ophthalmologists from several medical colleges and hospitals of the city have been carrying out classroom surveys. “We have tried to counsel not only the parents but also teachers, who must take responsibility for detecting whether a child needs glasses or not,” Dutta added.
Worried at the low level of awareness among schoolteachers, students and parents, the government recently convened a meeting at Writers’ Buildings to discuss the problem at length.
A recent National Programme for Control of Blindness and Vision: 2020 (NPCB) report was tabled at the meeting.
Gautam Bhaduri, director of the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO), drew attention to the NPCB observation that “uncorrected refractive errors” were alarmingly high in West Bengal.
A pilot project in the state came up with the startling statistic that 40.2 persons of the 4,000 surveyed had turned blind due to uncorrected refraction errors.
In order to detect and control refractive errors among children, the government has decided to boost its eye-screening programme in schools with mandatory eye camps and counselling sessions.
“We will make every effort to ensure that the problems are detected and rectified at an early stage,” RIO director Gautam Bhaduri told Metro.
Private medical units conducting eye camps on school campuses have also reported an alarming lack of awareness among teachers, students and parents about the problem.
But some, like Ranjan Mitter, principal of Future Foundation School, insist that students regularly attend eye check-up camps conducted by eminent ophthalmologist. Sister Cyril of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, has also asked her teachers to “detect and inform” parents of their children’s poor eyesight.