Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lecturing in Mzuni

So lecturing eh? Well despite me having no experience in lecturing, I can pretty much guarantee that there is teaching blood running through my veins. At last count, there are eight of my extended family involved in teaching in one form or another. Was I ever tempted into teaching? As my mother said “You don’t have the patience for it”. Hence lecturing, the students, for the most part, want to learn.

So, what is lecturing in Africa like? Well, the students want to learn. They are very proud of the fact that they are studying optometry and that they are going to be some of the first optometrists in Malawi. As a result, attendance for classes is 100% pretty much all the time. Classes start at 7:45 and continue until 4:45 with an hour for lunch from 11:45. However when we are in the hospital for clinics, it’s very unusual to finish before 5:30!

I currently lecture Physiological Optics to the 2nd years, I share Practical Ophthalmic Workshop with Elaine for the 2nd years also and spend 28 hours supervising hospital clinics for both second and third years. However tomorrow week this will change. The third years are currently sitting their final exams and in an attempt to normalise the academic calendar, they will be starting fourth year on the 10th of Sept. When this happens, I will still be lecturing the 2nd years but I will be teaching Geriatric Optometry, sharing Clinical Case Analysis with Sara, sharing Occupational and Environmental Optometry with Elaine and sharing Practise Management with Sanchia. Now all I need to do is relearn all that I learnt in college!

Then comes the fun of setting exams and grading them. In secondary school, it seems like the students were given everything to learn off, like a lot of schools and as a result they have trouble applying their theory in clinical situations. Also during exams they give a basic answer and don’t elaborate on it. If you don’t spell out EXACTLY what you want in an answer, it is likely that they will give you the correct information but not how to apply it clinically, or what use the test has. Needless to say it can be frustrating.

All in all, I am really enjoying lecturing. Those of you who know me personally knew I was bored in commercial optometry. While I think optometry is a fantastic job, in Ireland it is just not challenging. I felt like I hadn’t used my brain since shortly after I started work but now, I am constantly having to think on my feet, I am constantly learning and I am enjoying it. I’m not saying I will never go back to commercial optometry but the system in Ireland needs to change to give optoms a wider scope of practise that is more in touch with what we learn in college. Until that point, a lot of younger optoms will feel unchallenged and a bit disillusioned by their job which, a lot of the time, just involves “one or two”. 


  1. Nice post, chief. I'm still hammering away in commercial optometry and I understand what you're saying, but I find it still keeps me happy, for now anyway. One/Two and the refraction game does become boring, but you get good at it, I get people to 6/5 within two minutes of putting the trial frame on. Easy peasy. 2.25 add and there's your n5.
    Instead, I spend most of my twenty minutes talking to folk, finding out what makes them tick, what they need to see on a regular basis, I get them looking at their iPhone and I ask them how far they run for on Sunday morning. I try to treat everyone like they're my first patient of the day, even if they're just in to blow half an hours before their bus comes. Also I go to insane lengths getting presbyopes good distance and near, I've four different folk waiting on multifocal toric soft lenses, I will not let my 50+ year old contact wearers need reading glasses.
    Optometry still keeps me interested. But your job does still sound that bit more... engaging.

  2. You're lucky Noel. All too often it's seen that multifocal CL patient's take up too much chair time and as such are shoved into monovision or SVD with readers over them. I still think little things like expanding the scope of practise to include simple prescribing or even changing the law to say we can tentatively diagnose would just be a bit more of recognition of our knowledge. Although I think it will take a while for the general public to stop thinking that all we do is glasses but if we could take a small step in the right direction!