SABIC aims to screen 5 Lakh students under ‘They See, They Learn’ eye care initiative in the next two years

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New Delhi: SABIC, a global leader in the chemical industry, on World Sight Day, reiterated its commitment to the health and wellness of the society and communities it operates in. As part of this commitment, SABIC has partnered with Rotary, Mission for Vision and United Way of Baroda, to support the large-scale comprehensive eye-care initiative ‘They See, They Learn’. The program is specifically aimed at students of government and government aided schools.

‘They see, they learn’ aims at ensuring that poor eyesight is not a reason for dropping out of school. Under the program, more than 300,000 students have been screened across 900+ Government schools in Delhi NCR, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Vadodara, with a frequency of two camps for each academic year. Over 20,000 children have been provided free spectacles while many have been referred to hospitals when in need of additional attention. SABIC aims to screen 5 Lakh students in the next two years.

Janardhanan Ramanujalu, Vice President, South Asia & ANZ for SABIC said on the program, “While working with these schools, we observed that government school children rarely wear spectacles as compared to private school children. This was even more noticeable among girl students. This is where SABIC’s ‘They See They Learn’ finds its origins. At SABIC, we want to continue to focus on health and wellness of the society, and ensure this has positive impact on people’s lives. The program has come a long way since its inception and we will continue to expand on it as much as possible. We inherently believe that things like lack of spectacles should not come in the way of a quality education.”

The impact of the program has been far-reaching.

Take the case of Lavanya, the youngest of three sisters of a subsistence farming family from Kudenuru village, Malur district, Karnataka. Her father Nataraj is a small farmer and just about manages to sustain his family through the year. But despite being impoverished, he has ensured that the daughters received education in the village school. Lavanya was considered one of the brightest students. However, some time when she was in the fifth standard, she started experiencing difficulty seeing the blackboard and would be forced to copy from her friend’s notebooks, which would disrupt the class. The teachers would reprimand her often and her grades fell sharply. During the ‘They See They Learn’ screening at her school, she was identified with uncorrected refractive error and her vision (without spectacles) was noted as poor – 6/60 in both eyes. After visiting the hospital for a detailed examination, she was prescribed spectacles and today her vision is improved – 6/6 in both eyes. Not only have her grades improved, but her confidence is back and so is her mischievous smile.

Then there is Shashank, from village Pichanguntrahalli, the youngest of a family of four. His father Narayanaswamy, had an accident some years back and is disabled leaving him unable to work. His mother Yashodhamma and elder sister Shweta scrape through by doing odd jobs largely as an agricultural laborers and domestic jobs in other’s households. In the fifth standard, Shashank was diagnosed with uncorrected refractive error and referred to the hospital for check-up. His teacher’s complained about him sitting close to the board to see the writing and taking his friend’s copies to note down class notes. At the hospital, Shashank was prescribed spectacles (vision without correction was 6/24 in the right eye and 6 / 60 in the left eye and with correction, his vision improved to 6/9 in right eye and 6/12 in left eye). Now he can go back to playing and watching cricket and his mother is grateful for seeing her son being his cheerful and bubbly self again.

For a long time, Ramcharan was considered shy and an introvert. During the ‘They See, They Learn’ screening, he was diagnosed with cataract in his left eye (right eye was perfect). After his condition was brought to the notice of the teachers and his parents were called, it was revealed that he used to always copy down class notes from friends and he never volunteered to participate in any class activities or even in reading out to the class, when called to do so by his teachers. His parents admitted that they never had the time or the awareness to do any further medical examination and were later hesitant and afraid to take their son for surgery. After intervention of the SABIC team and by some of the community elders, whom the team asked to intervene, Ramcharan was provided with quality care at the hospital. While he did not recover complete vision, he proudly wears his spectacles now. He is at the forefront of activities and actively takes parts in class and is not shy – he voluntarily comes forward to read passages from books whenever opportunity presents. His teachers say that they not only see a bright child in front of them but one who has a lot of positive attitude today.

Currently, poor vision is considered one of the world’s largest unaddressed disabilities. Data from the WHO says that globally, approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment. Of this, around 80% is avoidable. Further, impaired vision among children translates to poorer learning outcomes as the inability to see what is written on the board, or in a book, results in motivation loss and consequently, higher drop-out numbers. In fact, similar research on primary school children in China, from last year, showed that correcting vision enables an additional average 3-6 months of schooling. In India, this is a bigger issue as school drop-out numbers are extremely alarming, especially among girls.

SABIC partners with organizations like Rotary, Mission for Vision and United Way of Baroda to conduct eye tests in collaboration with doctors/hospitals. Each program is comprehensively documented and the analysis of the data has thrown some interesting results regarding demographics among other insight. We would be keen share the detailed reports with you, should you like to peruse on the same.

SABIC has been present in India for the last 25 years and has been working to address critical local issues and challenges with a specific focus on driving quality education. As part of this program, since 2014, SABIC has adopted 10 Government schools across Gujarat and Karnataka and upgraded/renovated them, directly impacting 8,000 students.

SABIC’s various CSR activities include the restoration of Lake and sponsorship of a community hall in Hosahalli village near Bengaluru, Blood donation drive, tree plantation and education drives etc