Magnum sponsors spectacles for children in rural Sarawak

Julia Chan
Magnum Regional Manager Liew Kee Chuan (second right) presents the pair of spectacles to a student during the ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ Spectacles Presentation & Eye Awareness Talk at SK Atas Singai in Kuching August 29, 2018. ― Pictures by Mukhriz Hazim

KUCHING, Sept 5 ― Even though she sits in the second row, Nur Afika Binedik had to squint when she looked at the whiteboard.

She sometimes struggles to read and understand even though the nine-year-old is a studious child.

“We realised not long ago it’s because she has problems with her vision. She is usually very bright, a good student who’s in the top 10 of her year,” said Tracy Neddy, Nur Afika’s class teacher in Sekolah Kebangsaan Atas in Singai, a village near Bau.

Nur Afika is probably one of 10 per cent of the population who previously had undiagnosed vision problems, which often leads to learning disabilities and chronic headaches.

She was clearly in need of help, but her parents ― a security guard dad and housewife mum ― did not have the money to spare for her glasses when they had to take care of Nur Afika and her two younger siblings.

Participating students pose for group photo after receiving their spectacles during the ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ Spectacles Presentation & Eye Awareness Talk at SK Atas Singai in Kuching August 29, 2018.

For this reason, it must have seemed like a godsend to Nur Afika and some 75 others when lottery company Magnum Corporation decided it would extend its “I can see clearly now” corporate social responsibility project to the school.

She was among 76 students from her school who were given free glasses to help them see better, and indirectly, perform better in school.

Despite being only about 45 minutes by car from Kuching on the newly-built Pan Borneo highway, the school is situated in a rural area, surrounded by hillside vegetation and not much else.

The school, although having been around since 1948, is still a wooden structure and retains much of its rustic charm.

“I think many years ago we had a company come donate some sports equipment but otherwise, the concept of someone giving us something for free is still alien,” said principal Johen Thomas.

The programme aims to reach out to underprivileged children in rural schools and provide them with eye care services where needed.

“It’s definitely something we need. Most of the students here are from low income families. Not only are they unable to buy these spectacles, but often they are not even aware that eye care in needed.

“Sometimes parents, teachers and students themselves are not able to identify the problem is their eyesight,” said Thomas.

Claire Anak Albert and her friend Ariana Melanie Anak Michael Maxcalvin are two students who have been struggling with near-sightedness and are able to benefit from the programme.

Teacher Tracy Neddy teaches her students after they received their spectacles at SK Atas Singai in Kuching August 29, 2018.

The children of labourers and civil servants, they knew chances of them getting glasses were slim to none and learned to live with it.

“I was having trouble seeing from afar and also reading small print. I got headaches a lot and it made me tired during the day. When we had the screening I was told that my eye problems could be the cause of it but my parents were worried about the cost.

“It was a real surprise and delight to be able to get them for free. My parents would definitely not have gotten them for me otherwise,” said Ariana.

“I feel a lot more confident now, so it’s definitely a big help,” said Claire.

 For Ahmad Asyraf, also 16, his eyesight was bothering him so much that it compelled his family, a labourer, to buy him a pair of glasses last year.

“I think it’s gotten worse this year so I’m so grateful for this programme. I wouldn’t have been able to ask my parents to buy me another pair,” he said.

SK Atas is among eight schools in Sarawak  who will be beneficiaries of the project by Magnum this year. The others are SK Pujut Corner in Miri, SK Kidurong 1 and SJK Chung Hua no. 1 in Bintulu, SJK Uk Daik in Sibu, SK Gran Stumbin and SK Tanjung Bijat in Sri  Aman, and SJK Chung Hia in Batu 10, Kuching.

So far, some 517 students have received spectacles while 5,676 students have been screened.

According to Magnum’s Sarawak and Labuan regional manager Liew Kee Chuan, the company wanted to ensure that fundamentals like good eyesight was provided to the younger generation to be able to bolster their education.

 “If the children cannot see properly in classrooms, they will lose interest in their studies and this will impact their academic performance. This can lead to them being wrongly labelled a slow learners,” he said.

“To date, MyMagnum has raised RM836,947 since 2012 when the programme began and supplied 10,884 spectacles to primary school children from 210 schools and welfare homes across the country,” said Liew.

“The programme started as a one team campaign in the Klang Valley but is now a nationwide programme implemented by 14 teams,” he said.

The teams start by identifying schools and welfare homes and find partners to collaborate with like optical companies, and then raise funds through various ways like Zumba sessions, charity dinners, badminton and bowling tournaments and selling produce and homemade goods.

Meanwhile, eye screenings are conducted in schools, usually in rural areas with low income communities along with awareness talks for young students.

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