The British High Commission has celebrated the success of its Peek programme which offers support to school going children with visual challenges. The British High Commissioner Katy Ransome highlighted the importance of Peek, especially in school going students because 80% of a child’s learning is processed through the visual system and those not receiving appropriate eye care in childhood live with consequences of poor vision for a lifetime. She applauded Peek Vision and Standard Chattered Bank for changing the lives of young people where the aim is to screen all the young people in all schools in Botswana. “If this happens Botswana will be the first country in the world where each and every school going student have been tested, and that will be a testament that will be worth discussing even at the Commonwealth of Nations meetings,” she said. Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Phillip Makgalemele said that the need for intervention is vital because of the high numbers of students with eye problems, and as the ministry they appreciate such partnerships. He said through this partnership he is aware that so many lives will be changed and the school will even have better results since most of the students’ parents cannot afford the glasses. “Through this programme we have achieved so much in capacity building in regard to the different eye problems, establishments of eye centre, officers have been trained in India and the many active partnership programmes in that regard,” he said. Founder and CEO of Peek Dr Andrew Bastawros shared his story of a journey that led him to come up with a programme like that. He said his passion came when he was still a young boy after seeing someone his age that suffered from visual challenges but could not be assisted.
He then worked towards becoming a doctor, and then after that he met the same people who shared the same passion and vision that he had, and then Peek was formed and introduced in many countries to help those young people and change their lives completely. “Being in Botswana is a blessing, and through technology we are able to test so many young people and completely change their lives,” he said. Bastawros said Botswana will be the only country in the world where every child will get the opportunity to be screened and be treated. Dr Astrid Bonfield, CEO of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, said tackling blindness is one of their mandates because the impact of visual impairment on those affected, their families and communities is considerable because children fail to progress in school and adults are unable to support their families. “We need to take the necessary steps to tackle avoidable blindness and grasp the opportunity to end an old age problem because we can and we should,” she said. One of the students who benefited from the program from Goodhope Senior Secondary School expressed her excitement that since she got the glasses her results have tremendously changed. “I used to copy notes from others and rely on them for many things and even copied wrong things. Since I got a pair of glasses my results speak for me. I really needed this as my parents could not afford them; my sister also got them,” she said.