Now, I’ve heard of schools fostering donkeys and I’ve heard of schools which ‘Adopt a Donkey’ through the Sanctuary’s scheme but up until today, I had never heard of donkeys being the ones to start such a relationship.
On my last full day with the Donkey Sanctuary Kenya team for this trip, I drove with Josiah to Kumpa School on the outskirts of Kajiado town (towards the Tanzanian border from Nairobi). After a dusty drive through the stunning rift valley landscape, we turned off the road into the village and our first sight was a large group of donkeys being led by a Maasai herdsman. Josiah explained that the area was a welfare hotspot because the donkey owners traditionally use painful rings through their donkeys’ noses for control and inadequate harnesses made from rubber, which creates rubbing wounds on the donkeys’ skin. The basic needs of donkeys are often neglected here and they can walk for hours without rest, food or water.
After watching Josiah conduct a very entertaining lesson with Year 6 on the needs of donkeys (including, of course, a rousing chorus of the wonderful ‘Punda Poa, Kazi Poa’ song), we went to see Kumpa Primary’s donkey welfare murals on the main school wall that faces the path where community members walk their donkeys to the market every day. While we were walking around the compound, I spotted a pair of beautiful grey donkeys on the far side of the school’s land, quietly munching away. When we asked the head teacher about them, he told us that they had snuck onto the school’s property back in November. The school had tried to shoo them off but the mother-and-son pair kept sneaking back in. The school then tried several times to identify the owner of the donkeys but no one had come forward over the past six months and the donkeys seemed determined that this was their new home.
Rather charmingly, these two seem to know that the grass is greener on this side of the fence, both literally and metaphorically. While we were there, the head teacher announced that there would be a contest for the students to give the donkeys names as it seems they were resolutely staying put and had now adopted the school. The school is prepared to take on the responsibility and, together with The Donkey Sanctuary Kenya team, plan to embrace the opportunity to use them to demonstrate much gentler alternatives to rubber harnesses and to show that nose rings are unnecessary with lessons on behaviour/communication. The future is bright for these two and they seem to know it!