The Lilongwe Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (LSPCA) was started in 2008 by a dedicated group of Malawian residents, with support and funding from RSPCA International. It is the first and only animal welfare organisation in Malawi and, in addition to its practical animal welfare work, it runs several programmes to improve animal welfare through the provision of veterinary services and education.
LSPCA’s vision is a Malawi where all animals as well as people are treated with care, compassion and respect. They recognise the importance of humane education to the achievement of this vision, saying that: “Humane Education aims to instil a positive attitude towards animals, people and the environment, creating a sense of compassion, responsibility and respect for all living things. Educating children in these values and how to care for their own animals can help to prevent animal cruelty.”
They run an active humane education programme in over 50 public schools across Lilongwe, with the full support of the District Education Department. Their lessons teach children that it is our responsibility to care for animals; and stress the importance of providing food, shelter and veterinary care, and treating animals with respect. They focus on pupils of 10-17 years and visit at least two schools each week. Their lessons are always interactive and along with presentations from their team, work with the children to develop debates, role plays, songs and poems about all aspects of animal care and welfare. Animal welfare is often a new concept for the children and teachers, so they work closely with the teachers to make sure the lessons fit well with the overall curriculum.
The LSPCA has worked with the RSPCA to carry out teacher training, and the provision of teachers’ guides for clubs and lessons facilitation.
The LSPCA also runs Animal Kindness Clubs, which were kindly supported by the National Council of SPCAs from South Africa. These are a popular after school activity. This is how they work:
Head teachers appoint a teacher as the ‘club patron’ and the LSPCA runs workshops to train the teachers in animal welfare values and a range of activities focused on different animal welfare themes. This approach provides for creativity and community-tailored activities, and the teachers and children all input into how the club runs. LSPCA is always on hand to support the teachers and design new activities. They consider that Animal Kindness Clubs are a great way to reach out to the wider community, since all club members become ambassadors for good animal care in their communities. Children often tell the LSPCA that they have shared advice on how to care for their dogs and farm animals with other families in their community. The LSPCA also encourages their secondary school club members to act as guides in the primary school clubs to promote peer-to-peer learning.
Humane Education Exams
The LSPCA even organises Humane Education examinations for the students – and gives awards to those who do extremely well. Humane Education exams are aimed at testing the children’s understanding of animal welfare issues before initiating them into the Animal Kindness Clubs.
Nine schools in Lilongwe sat for Humane Education exams in 2013. 1017 students sat the exam, and 511 passed. They even had one pupil who achieved 100%! This was Gift Kamwendo, who said that he had learned a lot about animal welfare and protection through the humane education programme. He added:
“I wish all schools in the country had humane education classes, I look forward to advancing into the Animal Kindness Clubs so that I can learn a lot more and broaden my understanding about animal welfare.”
Dr. Richard Ssuna, the LSPCA’s Program Director, said:
“Humane Education classes and Animal Kindness Clubs are aimed at promoting compassion towards animals in pupils and instil a sense of responsibility to the well-being of the animals under their care.”
“These classes narrow the very wide knowledge gulf between the correct handling and basic care of animals and the norms in our society. Also we dispel the several traditional myths and beliefs that impact on perceptions held in certain communities about animals.”
He also said that the program aims to reach out to school-going children and orient their thinking, to cause an attitude change in both the individuals and the society in which they live.