Why we promote eye health awareness in Indonesia and lessons worth sharing

In Banten, Indonesia, Perkins partnered with Yayasan Layak to conduct vision screenings for students with disabilities from five schools, emphasizing the importance of eye health awareness for all.

Girl smiling, wearing glasses with red frame.

Eye health is for everyone!

Eye health awareness varies from country to country. Some nations require universal vision screenings, which helps families better understand the needs of their children, but many don’t.

Across five special schools in Banten, Indonesia where Perkins provides technical assistance, there are over 400 students with a variety of disabilities. Some exhibited tell-tale signs of having vision challenges, while others flew under the radar entirely. And yet, none of these children had ever had their vision tested. 

Why vision screenings matter

Too often, we have seen this be the case in countries without universal vision screening requirements. For these children with disabilities, their families and teachers were rightly concerned with their mobility, communication, or vocational skills, but may have overlooked their child’s vision.

Weningsih, Perkins’ Educational Specialist in Indonesia, believes it is important for children at school to receive sensory tests, including vision tests.

In Indonesia, there is no systemic sensory screening for children, and only a small number of teachers are aware of the symptoms of sensory loss in children.

Weningsih, Perkins Educational Specialist

This lack of awareness can lead to undiagnosed sensory issues that could negatively impact a child’s learning experience and ability to learn.

Knowing that vision screenings are important for all children, Perkins partnered with Yayasan Layak, a low vision rehabilitation institution in Jakarta, to bring essential vision screening services to the students at these five schools. 

Collaboration spreads eye health awareness

Teachers at the schools received an orientation from Perkins and Yayasan Layak on how to identify at-risk children, and complete a simple screening checklist. Additionally, we coordinated a collaboration between the local education and health sector.

Students who were identified as at-risk for possible vision challenges were referred for acuity and clinical screenings by Yayasan Layak’s team of ophthalmologist, optometrist, and low vision rehabilitation workers. Teachers and families were included in the screening process, helping to make a comfortable environment for the children and provide valuable information to the medical team. 

Girl's vision is assessed as she points to different shapes on paper. The evaluation team observes.
Boy sits closely with his mother while an optometrist examines his eyes.

Of the 55 children screened, 24 were identified with refractive error and 28 were identified as having low vision. Yayasan Layak also provided free or subsidized glasses for those with prescriptions. 

For students newly prescribed glasses, clearer vision will help them participate in learning activities. For students identified with low vision, now we could plan and provide appropriate accommodations that will allow them to participate in activities at school and home. 

We realized the partnership between the schools and medical professionals was essential for two big reasons. First, it allowed us to identify vision impairment in children. Secondly, we could now connect them to the assistive products and services that will help them access learning. 

Weningsih added, “Implementing school-based sensory screening can bring about significant changes in the teachers’ approach and students’ learning process.

By conducting  screenings, schools can identify children with sensory issues and provide them with appropriate support and interventions.

Weningsih, Educational Specialist in Indonesia

Furthermore, a proactive approach ensures children have their sensory needs met and encourages them to fully engage in their learning environment.

A way forward

Based on this experience, and Perkins’ global expertise, we emphasize the following to promote eye health for all children: 

Finally, we encourage everyone to continue believing every child can learn. Only together can we make the world a more inclusive and equitable place.

We’re building a world where everyone belongs

Every day, around the world, children with disabilities face exclusion from school and life. Perkins works globally to help more children learn and define their own success.

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