I met 17-year-old Tadesse Tefera during a trip to Remeda primary school in the SNNPRs region in Ethiopia. He is so enthusiastic about donkeys, it really impressed me. Teenagers in Ethiopia usually share the responsibilities and tasks of their parents. Many are in charge of a variety of household and farming activities in addition to going to school, especially those whose parents are farmers.
Tadesse lives with his four sisters and seven-year-old brother, their donkey Bullo, which means “grey” in Amharic (many families call their donkeys Bullo in Ethiopia), and a cow. His family bought Bullo five years ago to help transport water and firewood and both Bullo and the cow have their own shelter. He told me having Bullo in the house is like having a tap because he helps the family access fresh water. He’s a very keen advocate of donkey welfare. This is what he told me:
"I was on my way to school when I saw a donkey attached to a cart heavily loaded with firewood. The donkey was too exhausted to move and the owner was so frustrated he was beating the donkey with a stick, trying to force it forwards. Then he started throwing stones.
I asked him to stop hitting the donkey, but he told me to mind my own business. I told him that donkeys are sentient beings and feel pain, just like humans. Donkeys are really important for his livelihood so by hurting the donkey he was hurting himself and his family. By this time, a crowd of people had gathered around us, watching. They supported me and told the donkey owner to stop the beating. At last we convinced the man to give up his stick and carry the wood in two rounds. I took the man’s stick and unloaded half of the firewood. I told the owner to contact the Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia for further help and advice."
Tadessa is one of 60 members of an Animal Welfare Club at Remeda School in Shebedino district, about 15 miles from Hawassa city in southern Ethiopia. We’ve been working in the school since 2011 to encourage students to support and promote animal welfare. Club members promote animal welfare through shows during morning classes and break times. We train teachers on animal welfare three times a year too. So far, 10 teachers at the school have been trained.
The children take the message home and out into the wider community. Every two weeks, a group of 10 students go to different villages near the school and talk to donkey owners about donkey welfare. Tadessa is the leader of his group.
Hailu a teacher and animal welfare club facilitator at the school told me there had been a huge change in the attitudes of people living around the school. Now fewer donkeys are overloaded and beaten.
This is Tadesse’s last year at Remeda, but he says he wants to continue promoting animal welfare at his next school.