Scores of pupils at a township school in Johannesburg lined up eagerly yesterday morning to undergo their first eye tests and to possibly get spectacles for a fraction of the normal cost.
The Mercy Foundation, founded by Dudley Filippa, visited Phatudi Primary School in Munsieville, Krugersdorp yesterday to offer eye testing services to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The children’s parents were asked to pay R100 for the test and R400 for glasses, if needed.
Filippa said this was a fraction of what the parents would usually have to pay and the initiative was making a huge difference in children’s performances.
“We are so excited about this. We have been doing this for a year and a half and found that there is a huge need for this.
“On Mandela Day there are a lot of feeding schemes – and tomorrow the kids are hungry again.
“Something like this is a lifelong thing that affects [the children] for the rest of their lives. Next Mandela Day they will still have the glasses.
“We are doing something that is sustainable and benefits them for the rest of their lives.”
He said for children who were often assumed to be disruptive or performing poorly academically, the issue of eye testing often went undetected, saying: “The problem is also with the parents and the teachers, there [is] big ignorance.”
Veteran optometrist Jonathan Brand, who was testing the pupils and offering frames for them to choose from, said he was happy to team up with the foundation.
He said: “We’re here because there is a tremendous need for eye care generally in areas where there are either no services or very few services.
“I’ve been involved in optometry for about 37 years and I’ve been working in community areas, mainly north of Pretoria, for about 30 years.
“Unfortunately many pupils in schools can’t see well enough in class and need their eyes tested. So fortunately we can be part of this foundation.”
Community activist Lesego Mamathubo is involved with the school and Munsieville community and said she had noticed the need for the initiative after experiencing the after-effects of non-detection first-hand in the classes she ran to help children with reading and writing.
She said: “It’s so nice to see the difference it’s making to the kids.”