What I see when teaching optometry in Gondar


By Jeff Walline, Associate Professor
Ohio State College of Optometry

I am in Ethiopia to teach two courses at University of Gondar: advanced contact lenses; and children’s vision.

The students have a strong basis in pediatric care, and they ask very intelligent questions. They are very patient with me when I ask them to repeat their questions.


My University of Gondar students


Traveling from the Gondar airport to my hotel, I went through an entire evolutionary cycle. Near the rural airport, several men tended their sheep and cattle grazing on the lush, green grass. No fences or borders exist, except those extended by men with canes and ever-watchful eyes. Soon, grass huts appeared, with little to adorn them or signify life nearby. I imagined that the same people tending the herds lived in these small, round huts, but I have no confirmation.

Shortly, the rural life began to intertwine with modern life, as the livestock grazed along the roads infrequently traversed by fueled automobiles. Although vehicles existed, it seemed as though most people of Gondar walk from place to place as they generally carried walking sticks to seemingly help them traverse the hills and sometimes rugged roadside.

As automobiles increased in frequency, so too did people. More people waited, as opposed to actively walked, alongside the road. They waited for one of the minivans or the three-wheeled motorized carts that would transport them to their location. Our bus continued to pass slower vehicles and be passed by faster ones on the hills, seemingly never concerned about the side of the road on which one drives.


A woman preparing grain on the roadside.


I was dropped off at my hotel, located across the street from the Vision Care Training Center and Fistula Clinic, where I lecture to six Master’s students about pediatrics and specialty contact lenses. The electricity only went out for 5 minutes during the morning lecture, so we were able to use technology to project PowerPoint slides on the wall. However, the projector was very touchy.

So, I have witnessed everything from farmers to exceedingly bright, enthusiastic students, and every bit of the evolution connecting the two, and all of this within the small boundaries of Gondar, Ethiopia.



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