Lessons on climate change, environmental damage and the dangers of pollution are being linked to donkey welfare messages in Indian schools. The Donkey Sanctuary’s education officers in Ahmedabad and Solapur have been incorporating information about environmental issues into their teaching sessions, before focusing more directly on the specific concerns relating to donkeys.
In Ahmedabad, we have been working with a city school, which has many pupils from donkey-owning families. Education officers, pupils and staff worked together to perform two plays on Republic Day. Seventh-grade pupils performed a drama about global warming, which focused on how climate change is affecting animals including donkeys and cows. The sixth grade pupils put on a play about animals and birds joining together to save trees which were threatened by environmental damage.
Meanwhile, children in Solapur are being taught about the harm caused to the environment by plastic waste, which is also highly dangerous to scavenging donkeys. Sessions held in schools this year did not only highlight the need to keep plastic bags out of the food eaten by roaming donkeys – they also encouraged the children to use cotton bags instead and try to keep the area outside their school free of litter.
This is a re-launch of a project which was started last year to reduce cases of colic in donkeys which swallow the plastic bags in which unwanted food is often thrown on to the street. The first school to be targeted was in a poor area between two sites where we work, Lashkar and Ashok Chowk.
Many children of donkey owners are among the pupils and there are a lot of donkeys roaming the streets around the school. Pupils confirmed that the food waste from their homes was either given to beggars on the street or thrown outside, with or without plastic wrapping. They had never been taught about the environmental impact of manufacturing or disposing of plastic, or that waste such as carrier bags is dangerous to animals. Suchitra showed them drawings of a donkey’s digestive system to illustrate how colic develops when a plastic bag is swallowed. She then moved on to talk about the wider implications of using too much plastic packaging – the greenhouse gases produced by the manufacture of plastic materials, and how long they take to decompose. The pupils were asked to think about how they could help reduce the plastic bag risk to donkeys, and what alternatives to plastic they could use.