By Ronald Musoke
Following Total E&P Uganda’s donation of an assortment of safety glasses to Owiny Primary School in Pokwero, Nebbi District on Oct.31, the pupils will be among thousands of curious Ugandans and tourists who will view the eclipse on Nov. 3.
The health ministry is cautioning people who intend to view the once-in-a-life-time spectacle to only do so with special glasses in order to avoid going blind.
According to Dr. Anne Ampaire Musika, an ophthalmologist at Mulago Hospital, when a person looks repeatedly or for a long time at the sun without proper protection for the eyes, there occurs some photochemical changes on the retina that may be accompanied by a thermal injury.
“This thermal injury or photocoagulation destroys the rods and cones, creating a small blind area,” she says.
She adds that the danger to vision is significant because retinal injuries occur without any feeling of pain because there are no pain receptors in the retina, and the visual effects do not occur for at least several hours after the damage is done,” she said.
Dr. Ampaire says the only time that the sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is during a total eclipse, when the moon completely covers the disk of the sun during the short two minute period of total eclipse, and one should look away the moment the first rays of the sun appear at the edge of the moon.
Owiny Primary School which is located about 20 km from Pakwach town in Nebbi District and is also within the surroundings of Total E&P Uganda area of operations was identified as the best site for viewing the total solar eclipse.
While demonstrating how to use the 600 safety glasses to the pupils and their teachers, Total E&P Uganda Health, Safety and Environment Superintendent based at Tangi Camp, Lucien Dat retaliated to the pupils how lucky they are to have the total solar eclipse appear and be best viewed from their school.
“The whole world will be looking at you too. I am sure all of you are looking forward to this moment as well; but if you want to see what will happen to the sun and moon, use these glasses so that you don’t get blind. Those who will view the eclipse without any protection will have their eyes destroyed,” Dat told the pupils.
Cosmas Openja, a P.7 candidate at the school who will sit his Primary Leaving Examination on Nov.4 thanked Total for ensuring that they; especially the P.7 candidates do not lose their sight while viewing the eclipse.
The head teacher of Owiny Primary School, John Okot said the glasses given by Total E&P will not only benefit the pupils, but could be also shared by the different family members of the pupils during the eclipse.
He stated that in the absence of these specialized glasses given by Total, the teachers and pupils would have resorted to using the naked eyes or traditional methods of viewing the eclipse such as pouring water in a basin and then waiting for the reflection to hit it, or even the light black polythene to cover their eyes, which is risky.
Dr. Ampaire cautioned parents who intend to go with their children to supervise them during the event.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth – on the same line – casting a shadow of the moon on the surface of the earth.
A total solar eclipse is probably the most spectacular astronomical yet very rare occasion that most people will experience in their lives.