‘Schools everywhere should get involved with Glasses in Classes’

James Chen
3 min readFeb 24, 2020

--

The year 2020 is an obvious signal to start taking action on vision. Schools can help too.

Teachers, do you know that short-sightedness (myopia) is projected to grow from 310 million today to 480 million by 2050? Parents, do you know that correcting vision is equivalent to an extra half year of schooling? And children, do you know that you can encourage world leaders to help all the children of the Commonwealth see clearly? I will tell you how.

The team at Clearly, the charity I founded, have created an activity pack for schools across the Commonwealth. The pack provides everything that you as teachers need to help your class or assembly learn about the importance of good vision and the impact it can have on children’s lives. Children, don’t worry — the pack is not a boring science lesson. We have included some fun activities to make sure you enjoy the lesson whilst finding out facts you never knew about your own eyes.

For example, did you know that the average person blinks 15 times per minute? Or that our eyes actually see the world upside-down but our brain turns the image around? My favourite fact is that approximately 80% of how we interact with the world is through our eyes. Think about how much of the world you would miss without being able to see clearly.

Unfortunately, that is the predicament for so many children across the world. Globally, children struggle with a range of vision issues — and the problem is getting worse, not better. Though the problem is far from being solved in the Global North, 90% of those who suffer with untreated poor vision reside in the Global South. Even regions with the lowest levels of myopia, like Western Africa, expect to see the most rapid increases in childhood myopia over the next three decades.

We must take urgent action. We want schools everywhere to help us.

Commonwealth countries are gathering at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda in June this year. We have just four months to make them listen. We are urging Commonwealth Government leaders to commit to providing sight screenings and affordable treatments, including glasses, for all school children, and we want to see it reflected in the communique that will come from the meeting.

Most of the vision issues children face can easily be identified by low-cost school-based screening. Commonwealth countries are already making a difference. For example, CHOGM’s host country, Rwanda, has shown leadership in this sector by piloting eye health screenings in schools. Pakistan is rolling out a school eye programme across the country; Samoa provides free eye-care and glasses to all children; and Botswana is piloting new eye health screenings using smart phone technology within schools.

But a handful of countries out of 54 is not enough. That’s why we need Commonwealth leaders to take the next steps in delivering their commitment of achieving ‘quality eye care for all’. What better way to help them make that decision than by hearing from the children of the Commonwealth themselves?

So — teachers and students — get your eyes on our pack, which you can download here. Once you’ve completed the activities, cut out and wear the Clearly glasses and take a photo with your class. Then choose one of the messages to hold up in your photos and show your commitment to the Glasses in Classes campaign by sharing your photo on social media tagging @ClearlyWorld and #GlassesinClasses.

We need you to help us ensure our heads of government make the right decision in June and commit to Glasses in Classes. Let’s give every child the best possible start in life, something everyone deserves.

--

--

James Chen

James is a Hong Kong-based philanthropist who has dedicated his life to tackling the world’s largest unmet disability — poor vision