KP Sharma

To enhance accessibility and affordability of screening cataracts and other eye-related diseases among schoolchildren, teachers were trained on Smart Eye Camera (SEC) in Thimphu yesterday.

Twenty teachers from inclusive Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools and five instructors from Technical Training Institutes (VTI) received training on the technology.

Developed in Japan, the SEC uses a smartphone-attached device to observe various eye structures such as eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, interior chambers, iris, and lens. This technology enables online diagnosis of diseases related to the eyes.

During the training, participants learned to operate the equipment and upload images and videos onto the server, along with other technical details.

Once implemented, the focal teacher can conduct the annual eye screenings for students and instantly receive consultation and feedback from ophthalmologists.

According to the trainers, this facility facilitates early diagnosis of eye diseases and timely intervention.

To use the technology, teachers will have to upload pictures and videos on the server, allowing doctors to diagnose without the patient needing to travel to meet ophthalmologists.

ECCD and SEN Chief Program Officer Sherub Gyeltshen said that the ministry has acquired 25 sets of SEC. Of these, 20 sets will be distributed to schools in 20 dzongkhags each, and the remaining five will be allocated to the TTIs.

He said that Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck Super FabLab would manufacture the equipment, enhancing accessibility and cost-effectiveness, while also promoting domestic technological development.

“We are also promoting the development of technology within the country,” he said.

Once implemented, Social Sector Economist of Asia Development Bank (ADB), Ryotaro Hayashi said that Bhutan would greatly benefit from this technology, particularly in addressing the shortage of health workers in the country.

“When we have limited resources, technology should be the solution,” he said.

However, some participants expressed concerns about the availability and accessibility of Bhutanese doctors on online platforms for consultation, given the existing shortage of ophthalmologists in the country.

An official from the ministry said that in response, the Ministry of Health has been informed about the initiative and health officials were actively involved in training teachers, particularly in some schools in Thimphu last year.

He said that the health ministry has been supportive, appreciating the initiative and has assured that the collaboration will be integrated in the upcoming years.

He pointed out the possibility of training dzongkhag health officers on the SEC, indicating a potential expansion of the initiative within the health sector.

The USD 2 million grant project in Bhutan is a special multi-sectoral collaboration funded by Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and Pacific (JFPR) with the implementation support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.