When Yeshiworque first started school, she was as bright and eager to learn as any kindergartener. She loved going to class, and by the end of first grade, she was among the top three students in her class.
But during second grade, everything changed.
That year, Yeshiworque started having trouble seeing the blackboard. She had to sit in the front row to read it and had to hold her textbooks close to her eyes. As she struggled with her schoolwork, her grades dropped her to near the bottom of her class.
Over the years, as Yeshiworque’s vision continued to worsen, school became more and more of a struggle. She could no longer read the chalkboard at all, so her friends had to whisper to her as they copied notes, risking a scolding from the teacher.
Other times she would just pretend to take notes. She fell behind in her homework. Her teachers didn’t understand or believe her when she explained that she couldn’t see well enough to do the work.
School became a daily ordeal. She’d turn in incomplete homework and was constantly reprimanded for her inability to read. To avoid the continued embarrassment, Yeshiworque started skipping classes.
Luckily, Yeshiworque was in attendance on the day an eye health team came to her school. Along with her classmates, she was screened for visual acuity. The test showed that Yeshiworque could only count fingers from up to three meters away with her left eye. Her right eye was even worse, with only a one-meter range on the test.
After the screening, Yeshiworque was sent to see an optometrist with our partners at Tibebe Ghion Hospital for a thorough visual acuity test and eye examination. She received a pair of prescription eyeglasses, free of charge, to restore her vision.
“Using the eyeglasses, I was dizzy at first,” she says. “But I got over that quickly and everything is alright now. I can see what is written on the chalkboard from any distance in the classroom. I don’t need any help from my friends to read to me aloud. In fact, I tell them not to distract me when they try.”
Now a sixth-grader, Yeshiworque studies hard, both at school and at home, with a new career goal in mind: to become a doctor, so that she can help others as she has been helped.
Yeshiworque was screened through a school-based eye screening project run by Partners in Education Ethiopia and Operation Eyesight.
With files from Marnat Adugna at Partners in Education Ethiopia.