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Pushing for school eye health program in Indonesia Pushing for school eye health program in Indonesia

Pushing for school eye health program in Indonesia

Taller than most of her classmates, 14-year-old Adis stands out from the crowd. But despite her height, she still has to sit in front of the class because of her blurred vision. She has to squint really hard in order to see far objects, like the blackboard.

“I never told my parents about my eye problem. I am afraid that they will be angry if they find out that I have blurry vision. I feel that my parents will blame me for using gadgets,” Adis says.

Adis has myopia or short-sightedness, which is a kind of refractive error. Her eyesight can be easily corrected by wearing glasses. However like other children in Indonesia, Adis is not used to having her eye checked.

In Indonesia, the prevalence of myopia among people over the age of 21 is 26.1%. But for children at school, the reate is around 27.2%.

14歲的Adis(中)較班裡其他的同學都要高。14-year-old Adis is taller than her other classmates but she has to sit in front of the class.

Mini- doctor Program

With generous funding support from Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing Program, The Fred Hollows Foundation launched the mini doctor program in Indonesia.

Students who are interested in volunteering as mini doctors attend regular training modules on health and safety, such as first aid and disaster response. After a few months of training and gaining experience, they are officially assigned as mini doctors, and are on call to respond to urgent health issues at school. This is seen as a way to conduct more effective eye screenings in schools.

At Gerung National Junior High School in West Lombok, mini doctors Anggi, Zian, and Regina prepare their kits for an eye check. They visit a class and ask students to recite the letters they see on the eye chart. The results of each student are captured on the class record, which is sent to their teacher and then to the Puskesmas, the community health center. Students who are found to have eye problems will be given further tests, and eventually, their own eyeglasses.

“I’m happy being a mini doctor because I get to help other students when they feel sick. I feel that it’s not just the responsibility of the teacher to help. We can help ease the burden of our teachers too,” Anggi said.

“I want to be a doctor in the future. I want to help sick people and help make the spirit of volunteerism alive. I feel compelled to care. If there are sick people, how can you not do anything to help them?” Zian said.

To date, all 900 students in their school received eye checks – all thanks to Anggi, Zian, Regina and their fellow mini doctors.

Adis is one of their happy patients.

“I prefer my peer group to do the screening rather than my teacher. Sometimes, teachers can be too strict. My peers are cool, and cheerful. I feel comfortable with my schoolmates screening us,” Adis said.

參與印尼小醫生計劃的Anggi、Zian和Regina。Mini doctors Anggi, Zian and Regina. 

Using game cards to ignite learning interest

Third graders Arka, Bunga and Rulan are playing board games with fellow students at a primary school in Lombok.

“I choose eating carrots. It’s good for my eyes,” Rulan said as she flashes her card to her classmates.

“I choose eating fish – it contains nutrients good for my eyes,” Arka answers.

Arka, Bunga, and Rulan shuffle through a game of cards that teach them about good eye health habits.

“Because of this game, I learned how to keep my eyes healthy,” Bunga said.

The interactive card game is one of the many educational games developed by The Fred Hollows Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The games vary in complexity and are modified to suit each school level.

“These games help a lot to explain eye health to students. There is a lot of information included but they can absorb them because of the games. Now they know about eye care, and learn about good and bad habits related to eye health, ” teacher Baiq Nurul Hidayani said.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is aiming to reach more than half a million students in the populous areas of West Nusa Tenggara. Aside from educating primary and junior high school students on eye health, they are also screened for vision problems. Those who have eye problems receive eyeglasses to correct their vision, and in some cases, they undergo treatments like cataract surgery.

學校眼健康計劃善用遊戲卡鼓勵學生學習眼健康知識。The Fred Hollows Foundation develops card games to help students learn more about eye health. 

Teacher training program

In order to reach the project’s ambitious targets, teachers are also contributing a great deal to the eye screening efforts.

Maria Rosalina is one of the teachers being trained. She joins more than 40 teachers from East Lombok schools, as they simulate the experience of receiving and giving visual acuity tests.
The District Health Office regularly conducts training for primary and secondary school teachers. The Seeing is Believing project aims to train 3,358 teachers in West Nusa Tenggara so they can perform eye screenings at their schools.

Field head of East Lombok office, Haji Supardi, said: “Around 10% of the students here have refractive error. It’s very important that teachers can do eye screening so they can detect refractive error early on.”

“Now it’s very hard to find cases of refractive error because not so many parents are aware of their child’s condition and they just let it be. So if the teacher can find refractive error, they can refer them to the health facility,” he said.

Teacher Hidayani says that wearing the correct pair of eyeglasses made a critical difference in academic performance.

“Their marks at school were quite bad before. But because they can see their lessons now, their grades have significantly improved,” Hidayani said.

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