Animal Rights in Islamabad’s School Curriculum

For the first time the books containing chapters about animal rights have been provided to the students studying in the schools of Islamabad.

First phase of publication of books has been completed and these would also be provided to remaining schools within short period of time. The teachers have also been given guidelines about how to teach these books to the students who should know about importance of animal rights in the society.

The administration of schools will also arrange study tours of their respective students to green areas to let them observe wildlife animals closely and develop love for them. The teachers have hoped that learning about love and compassion towards animals would also help the young learners to focus on human rights.

The book covers basic concepts of animal rights, different forms of abuse and neglect, Islamic principles of animal care, and legal aspects of animal rights. It also includes strategies to ensure the protection of animals.

An official of the education ministry has said, “Animal rights activists will also visit schools and teach children about keeping pets. They will tell kids that pets cannot just be kept for fun, and make them realise that animals are a responsibility.”

The children need to understand that they cannot throw stones at stray dogs. That it is better to neuter these animals. Even our religion teaches us to respect every living being and emphasises how animals should be protected.

National Curriculum Council (NCC) Secretariat was tasked to develop the Supplementary Reading Material (SRM) to raise awareness about animal rights among the children initially from the schools located in Islamabad.

The social organisations have also underlined the need that similar material about animal rights should also be distributed among politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and other government officials so that they make effective policies in this respect.

Head of PM’s Strategic Reforms Unit Salman Sufi has said “The curriculum about animal welfare and animal well-being has been added to children’s textbooks on the directions of the prime minister who was concerned about the growing intolerance in society. It is important that our children learn compassion and tolerance in the schools.”

He added that he had also had detailed consultations with over 40 academics, the Ministry of Education, the curriculum board, and animal rights volunteers in this regard.

Salman Sufi also tweeted the following images as a first look at the subject matter:

He had stated that the course will be introduced in the syllabi of Grades 5 and above at both private and government schools in Islamabad.

Sufi also mentioned that the government is working with international organizations and local activists for this project that will educate students about pets, stray animals, and exotic pets.

Detailing the layout of the course, Sufi had said, animal rights activists will visit schools and teach children about keeping pets. They will tell kids that pets cannot just be kept for fun, and make them realize that animals are a responsibility.

He added, they need to understand that you can’t throw stones at stray dogs. That it is better to neuter these animals. That even Islam teaches us to respect every living being and emphasizes how animals should be protected.

Furthermore, the course content will also include the dangers of keeping exotic animals at home.

“We will tell children that if they can afford these wild animals, it is absolutely unfair to keep them at home and that importing exotic animals is a big no,” Sufi said.

The premier’s aide had also previously explained that the course on Animal Welfare will have co-curricular sessions, and after it is launched in Islamabad, the authorities will push for the provincial governments to follow suit.

The move, a joint effort of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms and Implementation Unit and the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, comes on the directives of PM Shehbaz Sharif.

It was launched on International Animal Rights Day to be marked on December 10 for the students of grade 5 and above. In the second phase, it will be introduced to other students as well. The course would teach schoolchildren that keeping animals was a responsibility and not fun.

As education is a provincial or regional subject in the current post-devolution regime, the federal government will introduce the course in schools overseen by it in Islamabad. However, it will formally push provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir regions for adopting it to further the cause of animal rights and welfare in the country, according to an education ministry official.

He said the initiative would have both lessons and activities on how to take care of animals and ensure their wellbeing, while animal rights advocates would visit schools to deliver lectures on the right of animals to live freely and safely, and on end to animal exploitation and cruelty.

The official said as the government was committed to protecting the rights of animals from domestic to farm to wild to entertainment ones, it had planned to legislate on animal welfare.

Animal rights hasn’t been considered as a pressing issue in Pakistan. But the recent rise in the population of street dogs and the government’s brutal response — of rounding them up willy-nilly and culling them — has prompted activists and advocates to raise their voice. Many community members have also been seen shooting or poisoning these stray dogs.

Many also forget about the unacknowledged culture of illegal animal sale. Informal markets are set up on specific days where all types of animals are sold at cheap prices. They are usually kept in deplorable conditions. Moreover, despite bans, illegal hunting of indigenous birds also continues unabated. One of the ways of tackling the prevailing mindset and culture is to create awareness at the school level. The incumbent government’s Strategic Reforms Unit has announced that a special curriculum designed to educate children on animal rights will be launched on December 9, prior to International Animal Rights Day. The course is said to include general knowledge on animal rights while also incorporating information from religious texts and examples. In the first phase, the curriculum will be introduced at the primary level in schools of Islamabad before its expansion to the rest of the country. Stray animals are often beaten, stoned and harassed by children and adults alike for entertainment, showing lack of awareness and empathy towards animals. The curriculum can help instil in children that animals too are living beings and must be treated with dignity just like humans. Biologically, humans belong to the animal kingdom, meaning we are not much different from them in terms of feeling trauma and pain.

The overarching lesson is about how to treat the vulnerable. Animals are voiceless living creatures who cannot speak up for themselves. We need to be an extension of their voice to make sure that they are protected and respected in a humane manner.

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