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     Volume 6 Issue 30 | August 3, 2007 |

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Saving the Vision

Elita Karim

SSB organised a ghazal programme featuring Sheikh Jasim to raise
funds for the project.

Remember your four-year-old mixing up the alphabet, pictures and shapes during the initial learning stage? Parents, teachers and child specialists alike would refer this to being a part of child's development. One of the most common features of this stage is mirror-image writing amongst children where most would get confused between smaller case letters p, b, d and so on. “This is a very common problem amongst children in their early development stage all over the world,” says Fahmida Wadud, Project Coordinator of Self Salvation Bangladesh. “These problems can be solved by spending time with the child and helping him or her figure out one letter from another, one colour and shape from another and so on. However, after a certain stage of say six or seven years of age, if a child goes on with the habit of mirror-image writing for pages together, it is definitely a rare eye sight problem.”

Helping children from poor families has been the main focus of Self Salvation Bangladesh, an NGO established in 1992. One of their very popular programmes, was 'Pothik' which targeted students from underprivileged backgrounds to make them more aware of environmental issues. Very recently, SSB worked in villages in and outside Dhaka campaigning for women empowerment through the 'Learn to Live' programme. It is a rural based programme initiated to help women of the backward areas know about their rights and the significant role they have in nation building.

Fahmida Wadud, Project Coordinator of
Self Salvation Bangladesh.

Their latest project 'Save the Vision of Tomorrow' has been initiated to “ensure vision for the next generation,” according to Fahmida who has years of teaching experience and has been directly involved in child development issues. According to her, all developing children have eyesight problems, which is in fact a very normal part of growing up. “I had to deal with these problems and I know that they can be taken care of through training and sometimes using special teaching methods and techniques in the case of children with critical problems. However, I had experiences with two young students of mine who would write mirror-imaged letters, words and sentences for page after page. This is a major eyesight problem that occurs in many children and can be solved through therapy. However, due to malnutrition and other reasons, children in this country go through many kinds of eyesight problems, which the teachers or the parents are unable to understand. Though these problems can be solved through medical help, the underprivileged sections in our society cannot afford it.”

Twenty schools in Dhaka will be selected where children between five to ten years of age will go through various eye tests and treatment. Doctors will be conducting several tests to identify eyesight problems, informing parents and teachers and also giving them a guideline of what they can do to keep their children healthier. For critical cases, diagnosis and treatment will be provided free of cost, especially for the underprivileged children.

Sixteen schools in Gandaria are already going through tests and treatment. “We will also be looking at students from two English Medium schools and four Bangla Medium schools,” says Fahmida. All children belonging to the early development stage go through certain vision impairments which the organisation would like to identify. “That is why we have decided to examine children from a few established institutions as well.”

Emphasising on the mirror-image writing that many children tend to do, Fahmida says that not many parents or teachers actually understand the problem and are always ready to blame the child's intelligence level, though all the child needs is medical support and extra time. Occurring mostly at four years of age, mirror writing is generally nothing to be concerned about. A young child first develops laterality, an awareness of left and right or at least that the body has two sides. This internal awareness then matures into directionality, which is the recognition and appreciation of right-left, up-down, forward-backward and so on. Specialists say that this concept sometimes takes longer to develop in most cases. Blaming or taunting a child in this case would just make matters worse and might even cause mental stress to the child for a very long time.

Well-known specialists of Bangladesh Eye Hospital, Dr. Niaz Rahman and Dr. Shabbir Anwar are supporting this project of Self Salvation Bangladesh which includes a programme to educate mothers and teaches about the common symptoms of eye diseases and the nutrition deficiency causing them. They will also be briefed on certain precautions to ensure proper vision and emergency treatment for eye accidents.

Raising funds of course is always a challenge for such organisations. Which is why last week, a ghazal programme was held at the Spectra Convention Centre raise funds for the project.

Even though Bangladesh has developed in various sectors over the past decades, health care still seems to have taken a back seat. “It is not easy to simply fly off to Chennai or Delhi when a family member is suffering from an ailment or needs regular medical checkups,” says Fahmida. Besides the logistical issues, Fahmida also mentions that not everyone can afford to fly to foreign countries for medical help. “Medical and health care should be provided to us in our country but it's a shame how many patients end up being wrongly diagnosed and advised by the medical practitioners here.” In spite of this, Fahmida feels that there are a handful of doctors in the country who are doing wonders in the field of medicine in Bangladesh.

Projects such as this show that it is possible at least contribute to making medical services more accessible to the poor.


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