Eye screen­ing a must

A bright fu­ture is con­tin­gent upon a clear vi­sion

New Straits Times - - News -

SIGHT, vi­sion, call it what you like, but it re­mains a fact that the eyes are the in­di­vid­ual’s win­dow to the world, which makes clar­ity es­sen­tial. There­fore, when a study sug­gests that one out of 10 preschool chil­dren may have im­paired vi­sion, the alarm bells must sound. In­ter­na­tion­ally, mean­while, the fig­ure of 20 per cent is even more alarm­ing. There­fore, to not con­sider the prob­lem ur­gent is tan­ta­mount to neg­li­gence on the part of the rel­e­vant author­ity. The po­si­tion of the Health Min­istry is that the ve­rac­ity of these claims need to be proven be­fore pub­lic pol­icy can be for­mu­lated and im­ple­mented. Fair enough. None­the­less, the ur­gency can­not be ig­nored.

The Sega­mat Pae­di­atric Eye Dis­ease Study shows that 10 per cent of chil­dren suf­fer from some kind of sight im­pair­ment and re­main un­treated be­cause par­ents are sel­dom aware that their chil­dren have prob­lems. An im­me­di­ate rec­ti­fi­ca­tion in this re­spect would be to ed­u­cate all par­ents of the symp­toms at the point of birth. For ex­am­ple, if the child is too of­ten squint­ing, then ob­vi­ously some­thing is amiss. Given that there are sev­eral prob­lems, almost all cor­rectable, par­ents must be ad­vised to be more vig­i­lant and not dis­miss any odd­i­ties as in­con­se­quen­tial. And, at a more or­gan­ised level, there are calls for eye screen­ing of chil­dren prior to en­rol­ment into Stan­dard One at both state and private schools.

In­deed, a child should ar­rive in school all geared up for learn­ing. But, maybe, schools are where the screen­ing should be done. Are not Malaysian par­ents known for their neg­li­gence, some of them at least? If par­ents were al­ways re­li­able, one would not be fac­ing the prob­lem of chil­dren with­out birth cer­tifi­cates. It is then ad­vis­able that eye screen­ing of all 7-year-olds be done as soon as they start school. Af­ter all, den­tal care pro­vided by the Health Min­istry is al­ready ex­tended in schools. It should not be dif­fi­cult to pro­vide for a one-off ad­di­tional ser­vice. Once iden­ti­fied, it should be made manda­tory for par­ents to bring chil­dren for treat­ment. If par­ents choose to be neg­li­gent, then the Child Act comes into force. While some may think this is an in­va­sion of fam­ily sanc­tity, to prej­u­dice a child’s fu­ture in this way is just not tol­er­a­ble. Vi­sion im­pair­ment re­sults in learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. And, when cor­rec­tive mea­sures are at hand, com­pro­mis­ing a child’s learn­ing abil­i­ties is sim­ply un­for­giv­able.

Teach­ers, too, should alert the au­thor­i­ties when their charges are in­ex­pli­ca­bly slow or are un­nat­u­rally dis­rup­tive. The straight­for­ward as­sump­tion is that some re­me­dial ser­vices are needed ir­re­spec­tive of the type of prob­lem so that, firstly, the af­fected chil­dren are not fur­ther dam­aged by a feel­ing of in­ad­e­quacy and, sec­ondly, the rest of the class is not held back. So, eye screen all Malaysian chil­dren to en­sure 20/20 vi­sion, although some do say that Dutch pain­ter Vin­cent Van Gogh’s un­usu­ally beau­ti­ful paint­ings are the re­sult of some vi­sion disor­der. How­ever, risk­ing all our vi­sion-im­paired chil­dren for a one in a mil­lion pos­si­bil­ity would def­i­nitely be cyn­i­cal and to­tally out­ra­geous.

Vi­sion im­pair­ment re­sults in learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. And, when cor­rec­tive mea­sures are at hand, com­pro­mis­ing a child’s learn­ing abil­i­ties is sim­ply un­for­giv­able.

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