Restored sight means children can pursue their dreams

A child, seated in her classroom, goes through her textbook
Written by Ashley Anderson, published on September 10, 2021 Sign up for eNews

Last month, students in Kenya went back to school, and our school eye health program in Uasin Gishu County is in full swing. This program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). We’re training teachers to use the Peek Acuity app to identify students with eyesight problems. As of July 31, nearly 24,000 children have been screened and almost 1,800 students have been referred for treatment.

One student to benefit from the program is 14-year-old Rehema. Now in grade seven, she has struggled with low vision since she was a young child.

Rehema (right) with her mother and little sister outside the school.

Rehema lives in the village of Kambi Kisii with her parents, both casual labours, and five siblings. Rehema’s mother told our team that she delivered Rehema at home. She noticed blood in her newborn’s eyes, but her mother-in-law assured her that it would go away by itself. It didn’t, and by the time Rehema went to school, she couldn’t read the blackboard.

Her vision worsened with time. Unable to see the notes at the front of the classroom, Rehema had to copy from her classmates’ books, holding the books right up to her face to make out the words. Sometimes her classmates laughed at her; she was so upset that she considered dropping out of school. To make matters worse, her eyes got very itchy, painful and teary, but she was afraid to tell her teachers.

Her teachers did notice her struggling in class, and they advised her parents to take her to the hospital, but they couldn’t afford to pay for surgery.

Fortunately, a team of teachers trained by Operation Eyesight visited Rehema’s school to conduct eye screenings. Rehema was one of 224 children screened that day. She was referred to the program’s mobile triage team for further assessment, who then referred her to our partner Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. She was diagnosed with bilateral cataracts and underwent surgery free of charge, thanks to support from our donors. Today she can read the blackboard and her books comfortably.

With her vision restored, Rehema can clearly read her textbooks – without having to hold them right up to her face.

“I want to read and become a teacher, like my father has been encouraging me,” says Rehema. “Now I can follow the teacher when he is calculating sums on the blackboard like the other pupils. I know that my performance will improve, and I’ll have the opportunity to pursue my dreams.”

Rehema’s mother was ecstatic. “Now my child can do her homework on her own; she doesn’t have to rely on the others,” she explained. “I didn’t have money to take my child to hospital, now I am happy because she has received treatment. This program is doing great things to support children who cannot afford health care services.”

Today, Rehema can read the blackboard, even from the back of the classroom.

On September 10, the Governor of Uasin Gishu County officially launched our School Health Program. Read more and watch the launch video here.