Can you read this sentence? Then you’ve been pretty lucky. Either your eyes are functioning correctly – or you are wearing glasses.
Go to a school in Ethiopia and look around: You won’t find any pupils with eyeglasses. This is not because they have better eyes than anywhere else. “Some of our students cannot see the blackboard nor even read what their neighbors write in their books”, says Wendmage Guta, the director and teacher of Bufeta Gibe School. These children would benefit strongly from wearing glasses. In the classes we saw in Ethiopia, the teaching method was mostly “chalk and talk”. Therefore reading is crucial to success.
Providing vision screening and eyeglasses to school children is a very good means to promote development. This idea is also supported by scientific evidence. Economists Paul Glewwe, Albert Park and Meng Zhao studied the effect in China: “Providing glasses raised learning by 30 to 50 percent.” The improvement in test scores among students who accepted the glasses were equivalent to the same effect of 0.9 years of schooling – or put more simply: providing them with glasses is as effective as putting them through an additional year of schooling. But way cheaper, for sure.
That’s why we set ourselves the goal to bring eyeglasses to Ethiopia.
Unlike the researchers, we will only cover part of the costs (the material of the eyeglasses and the screening day). Because while talking about the idea, people in the country told us it’s better to make the parents pay a little bit as well – so that they have an incentive to nudge their children to actually wear the glasses.
As we’re neither opticians nor ophthalmologists, we need partners for this project. And we found them when we went to Ethiopia in January:
- The NGO OneDollarGlasses that enables the local production of low cost eyeglasses in Alem Katema, in the North of Addis. They will support us to bring them also to Jimma, where our coffee comes from.
- The ophthalmologist Dr. Jafar from Jimma who will support us during the screening day and is interested in start an own production of OneDollarGlasses in Jimma.
- Kunuz Haji, head of the zonal health bureau in Jimma. The government bureau will help us by providing nurses for the screening day at the school.
Wendmage Guta, school director of Bufeta Gibe School will write a letter to all parents of the school children to invite them together with their daughters and sons to the screening day at school.
Now, we need a final partner – the most important one: You! For each package of coffee you receive, we can support one child with vision problems. And we can’t wait to go back to Ethiopia and make it all happen.
If you have any questions, please write a comment or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading and listening: