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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019

Now, teachers in Bihar to double as optometrists

Government school teachers in Bihar will be trained for preliminary screening of students with refractive error (vision defects)

india Updated: Dec 13, 2018 10:50 IST
Ruchir Kumar
Ruchir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
After screening the school children, the ophthalmic assistants would prepare a chart, mentioning the refraction set (power prescription) of each student and send it to the ACMO
After screening the school children, the ophthalmic assistants would prepare a chart, mentioning the refraction set (power prescription) of each student and send it to the ACMO(HT File Photo)
         

They have already been roped in for sundry activities like census work, election duty, and even for monitoring the open defecation-free (ODF) programme. And now, government school teachers in Bihar will be trained for preliminary screening of students with refractive error (vision defects).

This added responsibility, beginning early next year as part of the National Programme for Control of Blindness, will come to the school teachers with no monetary incentive.

Educationists, preferably bespectacled science teachers, from every government and government-aided school, would be trained in elementary vision testing, said Dr Manish Chandra Ojha, state programme officer for blindness control. “[They] will be trained to use the six-metre ribbon and chart elementary test, for testing eyesight of children. They’ll be expected to note down the name of the student, his/her father’s name, class, school, block and district,” said Dr Ojha.

Every school would have to send the list of students with refractive error to the additional chief medical officer (ACMO), who would be nodal officer for the programme in each district, added Dr Ojha. Students thus shortlisted will be screened, preferably by an eye specialist, along with an ophthalmic assistant, at designated primary health centres, and glasses will be prescribed to them.

“We have roped in Vision Spring, a US-based non-government organisation, working for prevention of blindness in India, to provide us with 35,000 glasses free of cost,” added Dr Ojha.

After screening the school children, the ophthalmic assistants would prepare a chart, mentioning the refraction set (power prescription) of each student and send it to the ACMO. He will then collate the information in an Excel sheet and send the data to the State Health Society, Bihar (SHSB), after which the free glasses would be provided.

For the training literature, the SHSB would give each district health society Rs 15,000. The shortlisted teachers would be called to the block headquarters where an ophthalmic assistant would train them, added Dr Ojha.

Eye specialist crisis

Bihar has an acute dearth of eye specialists at district level hospitals. It has only 68 eye specialists, in 37 of the 38 districts, covering a population of about 12 crore.

“As per rough estimates, about three in every 100 students suffer from refractive error,” said Dr Ojha. He added that no methodological survey to ascertain the number of the blind or those with refractive error had been undertaken so far.

As per a Bihar government order issued last year — it was taken back following political flak — teachers of government schools in Muzaffarpur and Aurangabad districts were asked to make rounds of their areas in mornings and evenings, photographing open defecation on their cell phones and shaming offenders. The districts were to be declared open defecation-free by December 31, 2017.

Bihar, the third most populous state in India, has the lowest literacy rate (61.8%), with second lowest (51.5%) female literacy rate, according to Census 2011. It has 37.3% fewer teachers than it needs in elementary school (Classes I to VIII). It is short of 278,602 teachers, according to an analysis based on Right to Education (RTE) Act criteria, which stipulate a pupil teacher ratio — the number of pupils per teacher — of 30:1 in primary schools (Classes I to V) and 35:1 in upper primary school (classes VI to VIII).

First Published: Dec 13, 2018 10:50 IST