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Access to education was identified as a key international priority by UNESCO as far back as 1998 when it called for “equality of access”. The profession of optometry has been challenged to educate practitioners in increasing numbers in order to meet the eye care needs. The World Health Organization reported that globally, an estimated 285 million people are visually impaired and in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) uncorrected refractive error is the main cause of visual impairment. The number of optometrists trained on the continent is currently insufficient to meet these eye care needs with limited access to education remaining a stark reality for students. A qualitative research design framed in phenomenology was used to conduct structured interviews with academic leaders in optometry across SSA. Finance for tuition andstudent maintenance, lack of knowledge of optometry and optometrists, high admission criteria, limited spaces at institutions,poor mathematics and science results, gender inequalities and geographical location were cited as barriers to optometric education. Lack of funding was the main contributing factor for the high attrition rate from university in countries where students have to pay their own fees.Where tertiary education is free, the limited number of spaces available in the programmes was the major barrier to access to optometric education for the ever-increasing number of aspiring applicants. The profession of optometry has a key role to play in eye care service delivery in Africa. Therefore educators, policymakers and health professionals must together formulate strategies to increase access to optometric education.
Loughman, J. et al. access to optometric education: challenges in Sub-saharan Africa, Literacy Information and Computer Education Journal (LICEJ), Volume 5, Issue 3, ISSN:2040, 2589. doi:10.21427/gjc2-6w19