Rehana Zahid heard about the pilot project through her son’s school. “They sent us a note about whether we’d like to have Ahsan’s eyes checked, and to have new prescription glasses provided if he needed them,” she said. “We of course agreed.” Rehana’s family migrated from Sialkot in Pakistan some four years ago. She holds a Master’s degree while her husband is a computer sciences professional. Since they moved here their story has followed something of a classical Canadian copybook style: she doesn’t have a job, while her husband drives a cab. “We have a young family,” explains Rehana, a tad defensively.
But in what represents a departure from the norm and may well hold out promise for several sectors— our coming generation, newcomers with foreign medical training, as well as Ontario’s, and Canada’s, beleaguered health care services— the project has employed international medical graduates to check the vision and hearing of elementary schoolchildren deemed most at risk. Significantly, the three-year project with a funding in place for close to half a million dollars has the potential to directly help around 25,000 children, estimates Susan Wakutz of the Toronto District School Board. And, while it currently focuses on seven inner city pockets of Toronto, the initiative could well be rolled out across the GTA, officials say.
The officials add that thousands of inner city students will be able to see the blackboards and hear their teachers more clearly, thanks to the new hearing and vision screening program which was kicked off last week at Thorncliffe Park Elementary School.