FHF Volunteer brings Safety Around Animals program to primary schools in Mukurwe-ini Kenya
A Long Awaited Return to Kenya
By Dr. Shauna Richards
At the start of February, I drove from Arusha Tanzania to the Namanga border crossing into Kenya. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. Until I crossed the border, I hadn’t allowed myself to anticipate it actually happening, but after sorting through all the paperwork, rules, and regulations I made it into Kenya without any issue. I can happily say it was more than worth the stress and efforts to get here, and my two weeks in Kenya have been exceedingly productive and positive.
I was in Tanzania for work for the first time since having to hastily leave there in March of 2020. Since Kenya is close by, I decided to make the time to come to Kenya on behalf of a project that Farmers Helping Farmers has been supporting since pre-pandemic times.
Back in late 2019, I approached FHF about their willingness to allow me to pursue fundraising for work in the community of Mukurwe-ini. Since 2013 I have been making annual trips to Mukurwe-ini to work with the Wakulima Dairy, dairy farmers, and with local primary schools.
The aims of the work included research into best dairy farming practices to support cow nutrition and welfare, and then implementing capacity development with farmers and the Wakulima Dairy staff.
The project that I started to fundraise for pre-pandemic was mainly focused on the topic of ‘Safety Around Animals’. This was a program developed with veterinary student volunteers to provide a session for primary-aged students at schools in Mukurwe-ini. FHF has a long history of twinning Kenyan and Canadian schools, and as a veterinary epidemiologist I worked with the schools to develop a session that would be of benefit to students to address local issues surrounding safety around animals.
Working together with the Ministry of Education, we felt we could scale up this program from reaching 6-8 schools per year and a few hundred students, to instead reach every school in the district and thousands of students and their families. With that goal in mind a team effort between the Wakulima Dairy, FHF, and the Ministry of Education, a workshop was designed to invite one teacher from each of the 71 primary schools in the Mukurwe-ini area. Thanks to many donors who are friends, family, and past volunteers we were able to make this workshop happen in mid-February.
We had a total of 78 attendees made up of mainly science teachers as well as members of the office of the Ministry of Education. We were even surprised that the member of parliament for Mukurwe-ini stopped by to learn about the session and offer his support. The day long workshop included an introduction to One Health, which is the conceptual framework that recognizes the interconnected nature between human, animal, and environmental health. This topic was emphasized alongside the Kenyan and international efforts to integrate One Health into governments, research, and education at all levels to more efficiently tackle and prevent health issues (for example covid-19 and new emerging infectious diseases).
Rabies is entirely preventable, which is why there is international support to end human rabies deaths by 2030.-Dr. Shauna Richards
Following One Health, the workshop participants learned about zoonotic diseases, an often-cited example of a One Health issue. These are diseases which can be transmitted between animals and people, and many neglected tropical diseases fall within this category. Theory on signs of illness, and methods to prevent zoonoses were shared, and an example of a local zoonotic disease – rabies – was emphasized. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) have joined forces and are working to have zero human rabies deaths by 2030. These teachers are now equipped to work towards that goal through sharing preventative measures with their students and communities. (https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Media_Center/docs/Zero_by_30_FINAL_online_version.pdf).
It is important to note that over 59,000 people die per year from rabies, and most of these deaths are within children in Asia and Africa. Rabies is entirely preventable, which is why there is international support to end human rabies deaths by 2030.
Following the session on rabies and rabies prevention, the session turned to dog bite prevention and prevention of injury from large animals like cattle and donkeys. This session focused on the need to use safe animal handling and interaction techniques to keep people safe and promote improved welfare of animals. The session closed with case studies which emphasized how to apply the knowledge learned over the course of the workshop.
I can happily report the workshop was very well received by everyone in attendance, and that teachers were feeling confident about integrating the material into their curriculum. This was further supported by the curriculum support officer in attendance, who suggested specific areas where their newly designed curriculum in primary schools had openings for timely topics in animal health and welfare. There was also support of the case-based studies as this aligns with the new curriculum focusing on competency-based learning.
The teachers and Ministry were left with a variety of teaching aides and resources, and I will be looking forward to visiting schools in the future to see how the sessions are proceeding. I am confident that through the support of FHF, donors, the Ministry of Education in Mukurwe-ini, and the Wakulima Dairy that these important messages surrounding safety around animals will be shared with the goal to improve One Health of the greater Mukurwe-ini area. Thank you – Asante Sana – to everyone who supported this work. I hope it paves the way for more training sessions in the future. We were already requested to teach the secondary school teachers!
Blog Author: Shauna Richards is a veterinary epidemiologist with interests in the complex interplay of animal, human, and environmental health, and the relationship and impact this interplay has on zoonotic diseases and animal welfare. She also has an interest in educational interventions related to the aforementioned topics.
- A note about COVID-19. The workshop was planned following local government guidance within Kenya surrounding meetings given the current risk level of COVID-19. Participants wore masks, had hand washing stations, and the hall was kept at lower capacity than normal in addition to having good airflow with windows and doors remaining open. Vaccination is freely available within Kenya, and many teachers have not only received their first series, but also an additional booster vaccine.