The first of its kind
The University of Guyana recently launched a Bachelor of Science Degree course in Optometry during a Sightsavers / Caribbean Council for the Blind (CCB) event, marking a real breakthrough in the development of eye health professionals in the region.
The four-year course is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, and will go a long way to training the eye health workers of the future who are needed in the region’s fight against avoidable blindness. The course is being run by the University of Guyana, and is receiving support from Sightsavers, our partners the Caribbean Council for the Blind (CCB) and Eye Care Guyana, and the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE).
Years in the making
The degree course is the result of a long-running campaign by our partners in the Caribbean that called for more investment into the development of skilled eye health workers. During initial regional research and planning into implementing Vision2020, the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, it was realised that while there is around 1 optometrist for every 10,000 people in the UK, the ratio was closer to 1 for every 100,000 in the Caribbean. Considering the lack of awareness of eye health problems and the scale of avoidable blindness in the region, something had to be done.
CCB, with support from Sightsavers, began work to identify a government and university in the Caribbean that was willing to establish a number of training programmes that could produce the expert optometrists and refraction technicians that the region needs. The Ministry of Health in Guyana and the University of Guyana became willing partners, recognising the impact such important human resource development could have on the eye health and well-being of people in the region. In 2005 CCB and the University of Guyana started a one-year Certificate in Refraction Techniques, which has so far produced 15 refractionists for the region, with another course starting in September 2010.
Following the success of the one-year programme the University now offers a three level training programme; the Certificate in Refraction Techniques, an Associate Degree in Optometry and a BSc in Optometry. Sightsavers and our partners have worked with the ICEE to develop a curriculum that meets international standards ensuring students in the Caribbean now have eye health courses of the very highest quality. Along with our partners, we have also been providing scholarships and learning materials to students, and supporting lecturers with a range of resources.
The degree programme comes at an exciting time for Sightsavers and our partners in the Caribbean; it was officially launched by Professor Lawrence Carrington, Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, at a recent Caribbean Council for the Blind meeting which also launched a five-year European Union funded project that will help deliver the goals of Vision2020 in the Caribbean. Find out more about the exciting project here.
Delivering Vision2020 in the Caribbean
Sightsavers and our partners have begun work on a five-year project that will significantly contribute to achieving the goals of Vision2020: the Right to Sight, the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, in the Caribbean.
Event launches Caribbean V2020 initiatives
Sightsavers and our partners recently held an opening ceremony to celebrate the launches of Delivering V2020 in the Caribbean and an Optometry Degree programme.