The Gift of the Givers Foundation, in partnership with the Caring Sisters Network (CSN), have donated 25 Optometry kits valued at R30 000 each to the Optometry Discipline to loan out to students who cannot afford to buy their own.
The donation process, which was overseen by UKZN Foundation’s Donor Relationship Manager, Mr Tebelo Kokoropo, was initiated by Academic Leader in Optometry, Dr Naimah Ebrahim Khan due to the growing number of Optometry students over the years.
Seeing the need for the kits, the Discipline put out a call to the community requesting assistance. ‘Students need this because we saw the difference between those who had the equipment to practise, resulting in them performing better than the students without,’ said Ebrahim Khan.
‘Gift of the Givers and CSN came out to visit and they saw the need and understood the type of equipment we needed which included the eye chart, trial case and frame, diagnostic set, occluder, pupillary distance ruler, prism bar and hard contact lenses.
‘Their contribution went above and beyond monetary value as they also helped us source the best equipment and delivered it on to campus, so we are beyond grateful!’ she said.
Gift of the Givers Operations Director, Mr Muhammad Rayhaan Sooliman, said the donation marks the start of an exciting partnership between CSN and the Discipline and sets the tone going forward.
CSN and Islamic Medical Association (IMA) Durban Chairperson, Dr Yasiera Mahomed Suliman, who assists UKZN by availing the IMA clinics as training spaces for students, said she was aware of the students’ needs. Being in the field, she said it was impossible for students to train without this equipment which is why she decided to lend a helping hand.
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Gift of the Givers Founder, remarked on how his family has a special attachment to the University – having also studied at UKZN. He said: ‘We need to give back to where we come from because to build this country, we have to help those children who aren’t progressing because of a lack of opportunity so that they can change their lives.
‘There’s only one way to fix this country, and that’s if we work together as one to make it better,’ Sooliman added.
He noted some of the projects his foundation has been involved in, including their R3 million donation to UKZN’s Medical Student Fund which supports up-and-coming doctors with historical debt – a project founded by the Dean and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Ncoza Dlova.
Ms Priyanka Jugdeo, third-year Optometry student noted how the initiative has a real impact. ‘When we are out on external clinical sites or for assessments, it really helps if everyone has their own equipment to take out the added stress of time,’ she said.
Mr Zamokuhle Vilana, fourth-year Optometry student highlighted how this will aid many students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have not been fortunate enough to receive funding. ‘It’s hard to do an assessment without having practised, it’s also a hindrance to borrow equipment because not everyone has the same brand, so the specifications are different.’
The Dean and Head of School of Health Sciences,Professor Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, commented on how students in the Discipline have been battling to get the basic equipment required to do their training. ‘Without the equipment, students are unable to gain the requisite skills needed for them to go out there as competent clinicians and service the community,’ he said.
Mashige added, ‘I’m over the moon that the Gift of the Givers and CSN have been able to assist in such a swift turnaround time. We thank you, as this will go a long way in assisting our students with their training.’
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela
Photograph: Albert Hirasen