300 needy students get free eye tests, specs

Singapore Poly student Kimberly Lee, 19, conducting an eye test on Deba Ramakrishnan, 7.
PHOTO: 300 needy students get free eye tests, specs

SINGAPORE - About 300 students from low-income families in Singapore are getting free eye tests and spectacles.

Lens-maker Essilor, which launched its philanthropic arm Essilor Vision Foundation Singapore yesterday, is working with groups here to conduct four days of eye tests for a group of needy primary and secondary school students. Those who need glasses can pick them up next month.

The students were chosen by self-help group Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), which organised the eye exams with the foundation, NPS International School, consulting firm BridgeAble and Singapore Polytechnic. Essilor's chairman and chief executive Hubert Sagnieres said the group hopes to raise awareness among parents about the importance of eye exams for children.

He said: "If they don't see well, they can't learn in school, they may have bad grades and they could have a poor life."

Around 80 final-year optometry students from the polytechnic are conducting the tests under their lecturers' supervision. NPS is funding the spectacle frames, and the foundation will provide the lenses.

In Singapore, eight in 10 people are short-sighted by the time they turn 18.

This is why early intervention is crucial, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, who attended the first of the eye checks at the polytechnic's Optometry Centre yesterday.

"If they had a problem and you didn't resolve it early enough, even if the eye surgeon came about later on, you may never be able to restore full organ function," said Dr Balakrishnan, who is an ophthalmologist by training.

Secondary 3 student Nikhil Sheth, 15, who got his eyes tested yesterday, has needed spectacles since he was six. His mother Hema Sheth, 44, a housewife, said the free spectacles will help reduce the amount her family has to spend for eye care for her two sons and husband.

This article was published on May 20 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.