Funda Nenja roughly translates from isiZulu as ‘learning with a dog’. The aim is to develop respect and compassion for all living beings by using dog training as a vehicle.
The project runs in the township of Mpophomeni, near Howick, in the KZN Midlands of South Africa. An average of 100 children and their dogs attend the weekly dog training sessions which happen on Friday afternoons at Zamethule Primary School in the township.
Classes are given by volunteer instructors, some of whom have gone through the training program themselves. Regular workshops are held for the approximately 20 community volunteers in order to increase their knowledge of dog training and behaviour, as well as enhancing their teaching skills.
All dogs on the program are fitted with a collar and a lead and are dewormed. The handlers are given training treats during classes and for training at home. The overall health and welfare of the animals is monitored for disease etc and dogs needing veterinary attention are referred to uMngeni SPCA which also sterilises the animals for a nominal fee.
Children on the program learn about animal welfare and how to train their dogs while learning self-discipline, commitment and responsibility which encourages personal growth and self-worth.
The well-being of children is cared for by the services of a Social Worker who engages with the children and intervenes if their families need support in areas such as counseling, accessing vital documents for social grants or referrals to other agencies. At each training session the learners are given a fruit juice and a piece of fruit.