A few days ago I noticed a form 4 girl who was peering and squinting at the board and was immediately reminded of 14-year old me, who didn’t realize that other people could see much better than I could and that I needed glasses. When I spoke to Jecinta (p) about it she told me of 2 other girls who need glasses. Why wasn’t something done? Africans are often philosophical about such needs. I’m so aware of my differences with that. If something doesn’t work, I want it fixed! Not now—yesterday! It’s the way I was brought up. Everything worked in our house b/c my father knew how to fix things. This was a problem needing to be fixed, so I asked who had the authority to permit me to take them for eye checks. Esther (matron) arranged it and off we went. They were very quiet and I wasn’t sure how they were processing the whole thing. In retrospect, I think they were a bit overwhelmed to actually be getting glasses, with the prospect of being able to see, of not having headaches, and feeling eyestrain.
On the way I explained that the price of the lenses is fixed, but there was a great range in frame prices. “This isn’t about looking beautiful, it’s about being able to see.” Fortunately the least expensive frames were quite nice. Each girl was tested and chose a frame. We had hoped to get the glasses today, but all three have complicated corrections, so the lenses must be made in Nairobi. That in itself confirmed the need. We’re hoping to get them tomorrow afternoon or Monday at the latest. Two of the 3 are on scholarship and the single mother of the third girl struggles to pay the fees and is in arrears. The scholarships from the US (almost all of them are) include a cushion for just such needs and I am so happy that these girls who have struggled for 4 years b/c they couldn’t see well are at last being helped. One of the girls, a very shy one was close to tears as she got out of the car back at SFG. Her appreciation was more than evident. Later Jecinta (p) told me she is one of the top students in the class, usually 1, 2 or 3. Imagine how much more she might have learned had she had glasses from day 1.
I’ve suggested that the school might do a preliminary eye test each year—the one with the E’s. That’s how it was discovered that I was quite near-sighted. The test was administered by the teachers every year and in 8th grade I suddenly couldn’t do it. Anybody know where I can get one of those old E charts? They’re all done with mirrors and fancy machines now. But if we had a chart, it could provide the initial indication that further testing is needed.
I had forgotten to get pictures of the 3 girls who are now happily seeing in class. Here they are: Elizabeth, Mary and Carol. I noted a change immediately in the attention and involvement in the classwork, now that they could see. I’m just sad they had to wait so long. Despite the handicap, Mary has always been among the top 3 performers in her form. Now I’m looking for #1!