At SPANA it’s not just our veterinary care that helps give working animals better lives – it’s our training and education programmes too. Our Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor Stephen Alborne, along with representatives from the Humane Society, has been working hard over the past few months to set up a formal qualification for teachers in Ethiopia. Not only does this benefit the teachers greatly, but the children and animals too. Here’s Stephen to update us on this vital work he’s been doing…

It’s not enough to tell children to be kind to animals. If they are to behave with compassion it must come from the heart, and that takes a special kind of teaching. There is no doubt that our teachers in Ethiopia are passionate about animal welfare. They do, after all, give up their free time to run after school animal clubs. We know that by acting as strong positive role models they make a real difference to the way that their pupils think and feel about animals. However, at SPANA we believe that with the right kind of training in modern humane teaching methods they could do an even better job.

It was with this in mind that we teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to develop a certification programme, the first of its kind in Africa. The idea was to give teachers something back for all of their hard work. An internationally recognised qualification that would equip them with all the theory and practical skills needed to guide children towards becoming more caring people, now and throughout their lives. And so was born the International Certificate in Humane Education (ICHE).

assemblyEthiopia was chosen as the country to develop the ICHE, partly because of the commitment of our volunteer teachers there, but also because they all speak English. That was important because neither I nor Dr Stephanie Itle-Clark from HSUS who would be delivering the course speak any Amharic – the most widely spoken Ethiopian language. It has been a long and arduous road.

Over a ten month period participants in the programme attended six full day workshops, completed three examined coursework assignments and undertook three formal examinations. Reaching the necessary standard required considerable hard work and dedication. Of the 63 teachers that started the programme, 16 fell by the wayside. But for the remaining 47 it was all worth it.
And on the 25th of April we held a presentation ceremony to celebrate their achievement at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Addis Ababa University.

It was an exciting day for all involved. Along with the usual newspaper reporters there was a television film crew interviewing SPANA staff and ICHE graduates alike. Animal welfare education is big news in Ethiopia. The ceremony itself was a formal affair, but the anticipation in the room was tangible.

After a wonderful singing performance by animal club members from Kera Hora Primary School we were treated to speeches from various dignitaries, including SPANA’s own Chief Executive, Jeremy Hulme. Then it was the main event; the award ceremony itself with the successful candidates receiving their certification endorsed by the University, SPANA, HSUS and the Bureau of Education.

trainingAfterwards, at lunch, thoughts turned to how to build on the success of the ICHE and further develop SPANA’s education programme in Ethiopia. One group of teachers were already planning to set up a local association of professional humane educators to share lesson plans and good practice.

That’s an idea that I would like the see go national. I also saw Dr Nigatu, SPANA’s Country Director, in discussion with Bureau of Education officials who have been inspired to introduce animal welfare concepts into the school curriculum. If that were to happen it would be a massive boost to SPANA’s goal of preventing animal suffering.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain: delivery of the ICHE will be given over by SPANA’s very capable education officers, Kefyalew and Roman and, with support from SPANA’s London office, they will be able to train hundreds of teachers over the coming years. These teachers in turn will reach thousands of youngsters. The future of animal welfare in Ethiopia is bright indeed.