The Shine Centre, an organisation which provides literacy support to primary school pupils, handed over a gift to Mullers Optometrists to thank them for their nearly 10-year partnership, providing free eye-tests and glasses to Grade 1 and 2 children in a school hosting a Shine Centre.
The hand-over took place at Mullers Optometrists in the city centre, which was the first Muller’s branch to open its doors over 125 years ago, on Thursday October 11, which marked World Sight Day.
Mullers Optometrists have partnered with six schools — Prestwich Primary School in Green Point; Rosmead Primary School in Claremont, Zonnebloem Boys’ Primary School in Zonnebloem; Good Hope Seminary Junior School in Vredehoek; St Paul’s Primary in Bo-Kaap; and St Agnes Primary in Woodstock — and every year provides free eye tests for the pupils in Grade 1, as well as children who wear spectacles in the other grades.
Spectacles are also donated to the pupils who need them, and they are given follow-up eyecare every year.
The Shine Centre communications manager, Pumza Marubelela, said eyesight was one of the biggest challenges to learning in a child’s life.
“Eighty percent of what a child learns in the classroom depends on the efficiency of the visual system. Reading, spelling, writing, chalkboard work and computers are among some of the visual tasks learners tackle all day long at school. This is why our partnership with Mullers is so important in order to detect early eyesight problems.”
Bea Volbrecht, manager at Shine Centre, said the partnership started when a volunteer at the Shine Centre, who was also a customer at Mullers, asked for assistance because some of the children who are part of the literacy programme may have eye issues. “In a week of every year, Mullers closes their practices, gathers the troupes and takes on the task of testing children’s eyes. We know how difficult it is for children with poor vision to perform at school.”
She said to date, 3 600 children had had their eyes tested at Mullers, and more than 500 children had received spectacles.
Mullers Optometrists director, Brevan Robinson, said each of the six branches took care of one of the schools, however, they roped in as many staff as they needed to do the testing, which happened in June or July every year.
“We go to the schools and take all our equipment with us and do as much as we can in that day. If the problem is fairly straight forward, we choose the frame and do the lenses on the spot, but if it is more complicated, we tell the pupil to visit us at one of the branches and we do further testing.”
He said because they tried to test every child who wears spectacles in the school, the numbers kept growing, so the optometrists also gave children vouchers for a free eye test at a Mullers branch.
“The eyewear that the pupils require is sponsored by us.”
Ms Volbrecht said the results of the partnership spoke for themselves.
“Not only can the children see, but they have so much confidence now that they can see the board or see what they are reading. Once they can see, they progress more.”
Mr Robinson said since they partnered with the schools, they could see the difference in the pupils who attended the Shine Centre programme.
“First, when we did the testing, we would have children who can’t read the letters. We have seen a vast improvement with that.”
He said Mullers would work towards getting volunteers together to assist at the Shine Centres.
Shine Literacy partners with schools to provide support from trained volunteers to children in grades 2 and 3 to strengthen their reading, writing and speaking skills.
There are currently six Shine Centres supporting seven schools in the Western Cape, and 20 Shine Chapters (Social Franchises) in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with over 6 000 children reached each week by over 1200 volunteers.