Optometric Education in Africa: Historical Perspectives and Challenges

Oduntan, Olalekan A.; Mashige, Khathutshelo P.; Kio, Franklin E.; Boadi-Kusi, Samuel B
Publication year: 

The African continent, with a population of more than one billion and 55 recognized developing countries, is still grappling in some countries with socioeconomic and other challenges inherent in developing countries. The continent is working toward a single political entity known as the African Union, and development is taking place faster than ever in most countries. The continent is known to have high levels of health problems, including visual impairment and blindness. Most nations in the continent are making efforts to reduce the scourge of health problems including visual impairment and blindness. Visual impairment in the continent is mostly caused by refractive errors. Consequently, optometry can help reduce the prevalence of visual impairment on the continent. The educational programs currently offered by the different institutions include Diploma in Optometry (DipOptom), Bachelor of Optometry (BOptom), and Doctor of Optometry (OD). There are 17 established institutions offering optometry degree programs on the continent, of which 14 are fully accredited. Considering the optometric manpower needed in the continent, more optometry institutions need to be established. Staffing and infrastructural and training facilities are major challenges facing the majority of the existing institutions. There is also a need to place greater emphasis on postgraduate education to meet the institutional, national, and international professional training standards and to ensure sustainability of optometry education. This article addresses the historical development, educational issues, challenges, and needs, as well as recommendations, for improving the standard and sustainability of optometric education.