Finding Time to Help Educate Children About Animals

A child shows off his drawing of an animal.

Every Saturday morning at the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Dog & Cat Project in Jhb, a group of children are given an opportunity to learn…its the Saturday Kids Club and youngsters of all ages from the surrounding area make their way to the project.

It’s a constructive way for them to spend their Saturday mornings and to be given the opportunity to have extra lessons in arithmetic, reading and learn about the importance of animals, wild and domestic, in our lives.

On this particular day there were about thirty-forty young children at the club, all very busy concentrating on their drawings.

I take a slow walk around the group where they are sitting under a canopy to shield them from the sun and I see that imaginations have been working overtime as some of them have decided to draw ostriches, others elephants and others baboons. They very proudly hold up their drawings as I pass by eager for me to take a picture of them and their drawing.

Long time employee De Villiers Katywa plays an important role in the programme. Siyabonga, the Head of the local Community Policing Forum, along with two of his policing patrollers, Nosisa and Beauty are also present and assisting with the programme. They are the project’s “eyes and ears” in the surrounding communities, including Matholiesville and Durban Deep, and they report animal neglect and cruelty to Cora Bailey, IFAW CLAW senior advisor.

De Villiers comes forward and begins the lesson, little ones hastily put their pencils down and shuffle forward to sit closer to him. I notice that everyone is paying attention and eager to learn, a sign of respect for De Villiers who has years of experience in animal welfare.

His interaction with the youngsters is on such a level that they grasp the importance of what he is saying easily. Cora and some of my IFAW colleagues join us and De Villiers goes on to ask the children how many legs a monkey has….”two” shout the children. There is lots of laughter and debating and then De Villiers has to admit that the children are indeed right.

Siyabonga and two of the community patrollers who assist with the programme.

With the sad occurrence of a monkey death not two weeks back, these are important lessons for them, to love the animals that share the world with us. We are hopeful that these lessons will not only stay in their minds for years to come but will be relayed to their parents and older siblings at home.

Time for a treat and a haphazard line is formed as eager hands wait for their treat, a lollipop or chocolate. Nobody wants to be left out and as kids so often are, with all the eagerness to receive their treat, there is a little too much shuffling for one youngster who is slightly overwhelmed and sheds a tear or two but its soon dried up as De Villiers reassures him all is okay and hands him a lollipop, tears long time forgotten.

-- LCH

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project