The Life Healthcare Group has donated R12 million to the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) which will be used by SANCB Optima College for the training and skills development of blind and partially sighted people.

Optima College is one of the only colleges that caters exclusively for blind and partially sighted people. The full residential facility offers courses in business and office practice, computer literacy, contact centre training and braille literacy.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 253 million people globally live with vision impairment, 36 million are blind and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment.

Locally vision impairment accounts 32% of all disabilities. It is also estimated that 97% of all blind and partially sighted people in SA are unemployed.

“Ultimately the objective of the training is to enable students to maximise their potential and to function as independently as possible. At the same time funding gives students an opportunity to compete competitively with their sighted counterparts for limited job opportunities available in the open labour market,” said Acting National Executive Director of SANCB and Principal of the Optima College, Eugene Modiri Matshwane.

Since 2006, Life Healthcare, in partnership with the SANCB and the Bureau for the Prevention of Blindness Unit, have screened some 53,845 patients using two mobile eye clinics fitted with mobile ophthalmic equipment. A third mobile clinic was added this month at a cost of R1 million donated by Life Healthcare.

These mobile eye clinics perform eye examinations and provide spectacles; and where necessary, refer patients for further treatment.

“We are acutely aware of the inequality in healthcare in our country and have embraced the National Health Insurance (NHI) proposition which promotes universal healthcare access. Our approach is to drive strategically relevant programmes that complement shortfalls in healthcare services and training in South Africa both at national level with community involvement at grass roots level,” said Life Healthcare Group CEO, Dr Shrey Viranna.

“The Life Healthcare Group is privileged to be associated with SANCB and the way in which the community is benefiting from the wonderful work they are doing. The support will add further impetus to achieving the Council’s vision of facilitating a network of organisations that collaborate towards the prevention of blindness and securing the full participation and inclusion of blind and partially sighted people in all aspects of a diverse South African society,” concluded Viranna.

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