Ethiopian schoolteacher Banchi standing by a door

Eye care in Ethiopia: Banchi, schoolteacher

December 2018

One of the many life-changing initiatives Orbis has spearheaded in Ethiopia to improve eye care and vision loss, is treating and preventing the spread of trachoma in schools.

To combat the spread of trachoma, we have been training teachers in primary eye care and vision testing, meaning teachers can spot the first signs of eye disease before it’s too late, as well as refer pupils if their vision can be improved by wearing glasses.

Biology teacher Banchi is one of the teachers making a big difference following Orbis-supported training in primary eye care. Amazingly, she can now diagnose conditions and refer students as she can identify the signs and symptoms of trachoma and other eye conditions such as cataract and refractive error.

So far, she has identified 11 cases of trachoma in students she has screened and referred them to the health centre for treatment. Dedicated eye care clubs across secondary schools in Gamo Gofa, Ethiopia, mean students learn about good eye hygiene and what to do if their vision begins to deteriorate.

Banchi’s role also includes running the school eye care club, where pupils get involved in learning about trachoma, eye care and the importance of good hygiene. The pupils can then share this knowledge with their peers, families and community.

The 50 students in Banchi’s club put on a performance every semester where the whole school attends, as well as people from the community. The students perform poems, a short play, and a song accompanied by a traditional dance, all followed by buna (coffee).

When Orbis visited Banchi's school, one of the performances we were privileged to see was a dramatic tale of a boy who ignores advice from his classmates about hygiene and contracts trachoma. Fortunately, he is visited by a Health Extension Worker who diagnoses his condition and refers him for treatment at a health centre.

Banchi says: "When I help a student, they are happy. Not just the students, but the community too!"