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IIM – Impact Study – Nayonika Makala Netra

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Abstract

The Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust was founded by Dr. Surekha, the President of the Trust, and its Chairman Mr. Prashant S.B. back in 2010. The Trust is committed towards providing as many people as it can with the gift of good vision. It also aims at transforming Karnataka State into one that is completely free of avoidable blindness. The Trust is in charge of Nayana Seva, which is committed to improving the eyesight of people who suffer from eye diseases such as Uncorrected Refractive Errors, cataract, glaucoma etc. It is further divided into the following projects, which are targeted for specific sections of the population.

  • Amrutha Drishti
  • Healthy Vision India
  • Nayonika Makala Netra

Of these projects, the Nayonika Makala Netra project is the most important one when it comes to improving the education of students by minimizing their vision problems as much as possible. This project advocates the proper implementation of school-based eye care programs and uses the help of the Nayonika Vision Wall to do the same.

Working as an intern for the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust has educated me regarding the plight faced by those with poor vision. I learned in detail about the various types of avoidable blindness, especially Uncorrected Refractive Errors. Using the combined knowledge imparted to me by the various subjects taught as part of the IPM program, I was able to conduct a comprehensive study regarding the problems that Uncorrected Refractive Errors pose to the educational attainment of a child, and also the effect that correction of these errors can have on the same.

About the Organisation

The Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust was founded in 2010 by Dr. Surekha and Mr. Prashant S.B. with the vision of mitigating the problems faced by people due to various eye diseases. The Trust currently focuses on helping the underprivileged blind population in Karnataka, but plans to expand its operations to other parts of the country as well. As mentioned in the abstract above, the Trust is in charge of three main projects at the moment, and these projects are targeted for specific sections of the population. They are classified as follows:

  • The Amrutha Drishti project is aimed at alleviating the problems faced by urban slum-dwellers due to avoidable blindness.
  • The Healthy Vision India project works towards helping those in rural Karnatakawho suffer from avoidable blindness.
  • The Nayonika Makala Netra project is concerned with the visual acuity problems of children, and more importantly, how these problems are detrimental to the education of these children.

The Trust has also developed the Nayonika Vision Wall which is an essential tool for screening those who suffer from poor vision. It also educates the user regarding the general symptoms and causes of various eye diseases.

The project-wise milestones achieved by the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust are as follows:

Nayonika Vision Wall:

  • The Nayonika Vision Wall has been installed in all government schools across nine taluks in Bellary District.
  • As of 25th February, 2021, 1600 teachers from these schools had been trained by optometrists on using the Vision Wall.

Nayana Seva:

  • 1.65 lakhs residents were screened for eye issues in Bellary District.
  • Cataract surgeries have been conducted for over 250 patients in Bellary.
  • Over 5,000 spectacles were distributed to those in need, absolutely free of cost.

Nayonika Makala Netra:

  • 7.5 lakh children across Karnataka have been screened for various eye problems.
  • 25,000 spectacles were distributed to Government School children free of cost. Details of the Project
  • The main project which constituted my internship work was a study regarding the impact of Uncorrected Refractive Errors on the educational attainment of schoolchildren as well as the effects that corrections of these errors can have on the same. Corrections include the screening and diagnoses of these errors as well as the provision of spectacles to the children who need them. The location of this project is Bellary District, Karnataka, although most of the work was done online, at home, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The project was carried out in collaboration between myself, the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust as well as the Government of Karnataka. The project was divided into the following five phases:

  1. Studying the existing literature on the topic
  2. Creating a questionnaire to be shared with schoolteachers and students
  3. Shortlisting the schools which would be studied using the questionnaire
  4. Drafting a 35-page report on the topic, our study and its findings
  5. Visiting Bellary and providing corrections to the students who require them

Out of these five phases, the first four were completed successfully within the six-week period of the Social Internship. The fifth and final phase was unfortunately halted due to the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in Bellary owing to the rise of the second wave of the pandemic. Therefore, the process of visiting Bellary and providing free spectacles to the students of government and government-aided schools has been postponed to a time when it is safer to travel.

The 35-page report has been sent to an IAS Officer, C.O. Nandini, who has contributed to the project by performing as the communicator between the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust and the government officials in Bellary. This report, along with the help of Ms. Nandini, will kickstart the screening and spectacles provision drive in the district. These efforts ultimately contribute to the Nayonika Makala Netra project of the Trust. The main deliverable of this project is to provide free spectacles to 30,000 children in the district with the help of the state government. The Trust aims to complete this deliverable within the next three years, i.e., by distributing 10,000 free spectacles per year.

My Role as an Intern

  • In the first week of my internship, I had to make a brief report regarding the effect of Uncorrected Refractive Errors on the education of schoolchildren and how correction of these errors can impact the same. I used online search engines such as Google Scholar to find and research over 20 academic articles on the above topics. I made a combined analysis of each paper which helped me understand the issue of Uncorrected Refractive Errors better, and drafted a 7-page report on the topic. This was then sent to the Nayana Seva team which consisted of research and medical experts, who are well-versed in matters of poor eyesight. They provided me with helpful suggestions and edits which I incorporated into the report.
  • In the second week of the internship, I prepared the questionnaire that was to be shared with the schoolteachers of the various government and government-aided schools of Bellary District. I initially drafted a questionnaire of 15 questions which were classified based on the specific areas of life that are impacted by poor eyesight such as classroom performance, participation in extra-curricular activities etc. These questions were also divided on the basis of who was answering the question, i.e., by the students themselves or by the teachers on behalf of the students. For example, the if we were trying to analyze the impact of poor vision on reading comprehension skills, the teacher would be able to understand the level of these skills in the students better than the students themselves. I then shortlisted the ten most relevant questions out of the initial fifteen so that the questionnaire would be concise and not too time-consuming for the respondents to fill out. I finally created the questionnaire on Google Forms where the respondents would have to select their Block Education Officer pertaining to their taluk and then answer the questions.
  • My next duty was to contact the Block Education Officers of each taluk in Bellary. Although Dr. Prashant, my mentor, had floated the form among these officers as well as the office of the Deputy Director of Public Instruction in the district, I had to make follow-up calls to ensure that these government officials did the needful by sending the questionnaires to the headmasters and teachers of the schools in their respective taluks.
  • My final duty as part of the internship was to compile the results from the questionnaire and with the help of Dr. S. Mithileysh, a research specialist based in the United Kingdom, I had to draft a 35-page impact study on the topic and on the project conducted by myself and the Nayana Seva team. In addition to the initial research papers that I had studied, I reviewed another five scholarly articles and used the data from a few of them to support the claims that I made in the report. I addressed multiple areas regarding the topic such as the prevalence of Uncorrected Refractive Errors, the impact they have on education and development of psychosocial skills, the need for school-based eye health programs and more. I also included details regarding the projects being conducted by the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust and included the results from the questionnaire that I had created as part of the current project being conducted under the Nayonika Makala Netra initiative.

Major Findings and Conclusions

The questionnaire garnered 135 responses from across the district. 75.9% of the teachers reported that their students had been screened for vision problems with the help of the Nayonika Vision Wall. Furthermore, only 51.1% of the teachers responded that the students unable to read more than 5 lines on the Nayonika Vision Wall were actually treated for their poor eyesight. Around 25% of the teachers reported that their students did face some difficulty in seeing what was being written on the blackboard in the classrooms, and similar figures were obtained for eye strain and difficulty in performing extracurricular activities. 57.1% of the teachers had undergone eye checkups in the last 5 years, and only 9% of the teachers faced an issue in teaching due to poor visual acuity.

These results convey that there is a high prevalence of Uncorrected Refractive Errors in the students of government and government-aided schools of Bellary District. There also seems to be a significant relationship between poor vision and general classroom performance (not to mention involvement in extracurricular activities) as almost one-fourth of the teachers reported that their students face difficulties in their academics due to poor eyesight. However, only a small fraction of teachers (11.8%) report the presence of poor reading comprehension and social skills in the students. This could indicate that Uncorrected Refractive Errors may not affect the psychosocial development of students and comprehension skills as much as they do on other academic parameters (such as performance in mathematics). The different answers to a few of the ten questions are depicted below.

This study, along with multiple studies conducted across the world, certainly does establish the fact that there is an alarming prevalence of Uncorrected Refractive Errors among schoolchildren and that these errors can have negative impacts on their educational attainment and psychosocial development. These undesirable effects are not only detrimental to the well-being of the students, but also to the development of societies and economies in general.

Prior research indicates that school-based eye healthcare programs which involve screening for poor vision as well as providing spectacles to those in need considerably boost the students’ quality of life. A prime example of such programs is the initiative taken by the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust which aims to make Bellary a district which is not plagued by Avoidable Blindness. The study documented in this report is a part of their Nayonika Makala Netra project.

Apart from the fact that there is a high prevalence of Uncorrected Refractive Errors in the students of government and government-aided schools in Bellary, the study also found that the academic performance of the students is hampered by poor vision. Correction of poor vision is therefore a top priority in order to allow the children to achieve a desirable standard of educational attainment. Although a large majority of the students do not face issues outside the classroom due to bad eyesight, provision of spectacles to those in need will certainly help minimize vision-related problems outside of the classroom as much as possible. The following recommendations will go a long way in ensuring that children’s educational attainment is not hampered by their poor eyesight.

Recommendation 1: It is of utmost importance that governments and school authorities address the problem of poor eyesight with properly implemented screening drives and eyecare programs. Such programs would boost the importance of eye health and reduce the stigma surrounding it.

Recommendation 2: It is recommended that a switch be made from hospital-based eyecare programs to school-based ones. Such programs will work better at eliminating issues in eye health at the grassroots level, and will also educate children about the need for proper eyecare.

Recommendation 3: It is highly recommended that governments and charitable organizations direct their efforts towards providing free spectacles to children who cannot afford to get them from hospitals and clinics.

Social Insights

The internship that I completed under the Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust really helped paint a clear picture about how much of an impediment poor eye health is to the education of children. Of course, there is a general awareness regarding the impact that poor vision can have on the quality of life. This internship enlightened me as to how it is imperative that issues such as poor eyesight be corrected at the earliest, i.e., during childhood.

The research that I did as part of this project, as well as the insights and help provided to me by members of the Trust helped me understand how eye diseases such as Uncorrected Refractive Errors can be even more severe on the underprivileged. The less fortunate sections of society not only have limited access to healthcare, but also have little to no awareness regarding the importance of eye care.

After working on this project, I gained more knowledge on how to make such healthcare and awareness regarding eye health more accessible through methods such as switching from hospital-based eye programs to school-based ones. Through my interactions with various government officials, the internship also made me more socially conscious by understanding how the government and local authorities work towards the betterment of education for the underprivileged. This project taught me how to work well with local administrative bodies so as to apply the knowledge I attained through my research.

Managerial Insights

The social internship that I completed over the course of six weeks helped me hone the necessary skills required for me to become a successful manager in the future. The bulk of my internship required me to conduct an extensive research on a socially relevant issue, and this research involved preparing a questionnaire, reviewing multiple academic papers as well as writing an extensive report on the issue. The skills I picked up from courses such as Research Methodology, Sociology, Language Skills in English and Critical Thinking and Writing Skills were quintessential in helping me perfectly complete the tasks mentioned above. Courses such as Development Economics, which have a lot to do with how government aid can be beneficial to those in need of it, allowed me to understand how my project could be optimized to help the underprivileged blind schoolchildren in Bellary.

One of the defining traits of a manager is their ability to communicate with people effectively. This internship allowed me to practice and considerably improve my communication skills. Since many government officials have a plethora of pressing issues to deal with on a daily basis, it was indeed a difficult task to reach out to them and ensure that they carry out the work that I had asked of them. Due to various skills that I developed in the classroom, I was able to have successful interactions with various government officials in Bellary, which helped garner over 130 responses to my questionnaire. This helped strengthen the validity of the data collected as well as the results inferred from it.

Therefore, this internship has not only made me more socially aware, but it has also helped me pick up and apply important managerial skills which any manager would need to be equipped with in today’s context. This social internship will definitely go a long way in contributing to my overall holistic development once I graduate from the Integrated Programme in Management.

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