In Ethiopia, our team in the Tigray region are forging a valuable relationship with the veterinary training college of Mekelle university. Ethiopia has a good network of government-employed vets based at clinics in rural areas, but their training doesn’t include donkey medicine. As part of our working agreement with the regional government, our vets are now able to provide this training, both by giving lectures at the university, and taking student vets out on field trips and giving them hands-on experience.
In May our team took a group of 92 students – the whole Year Four of the course – on a field trip, where they were able to learn about restraining and handling donkeys, and examining them for symptoms of illness. Our Tigray project leader, Goitom Abadi, said the students were very interested in the training, enjoyed the hands-on contact with donkeys, and were keen to learn more.
In Ethiopia we also do a lot of work with schools, and find that many children enjoy joining our donkey kindness clubs and taking part in creative after-school activities, such as performing plays and songs about donkeys. In a community called Gemeto, in southern Ethiopia, the members of a school donkey club marched through the streets for two kilometres to raise awareness of donkey welfare. About 40 members of the club (in the yellow T-shirts) were joined by other children as they carried banners through the streets. The procession attracted the attention of about 300 spectators as well as several donkey cart drivers, and ended with a rally and speeches.
We’re talking about two very different types of education here - on one hand, a group of University undergraduates studying for a professional qualification, and on the other, a group of school children for whom the activities are more about play and entertainment than work. But there is common ground. Thanks to our teams, both groups are taking an interest in something their education might not otherwise include – donkey welfare – and clearly enjoying the subject. They’re getting out of the classroom and into the donkey owning communities. And what they learn will, we hope, have long-term benefits to the donkeys, and their owners.