While you might have heard of therapy dogs being used in schools, did you know that parrots can also be an excellent source of emotional support for students? Research shows that ‘therapy birds’ can lower anxiety, depression, loneliness, and aid sufferers of chronic illnesses and PTSD. And although this wasn’t the primary reason behind South View School’s decision to adopt an African Grey parrot named Kuzuku, it was certainly a happy by-product.
Kazuku needed a home after his former owners moved away from Dubai. South View School Principal, David Flint, was alerted to the cause, saw the parrot’s wise eyes and soft grey plumage (the same hue as South View’s own school uniform) and decided to take little Kazuku under his wing.
At the ripe old age of 50 years, Kazuku is not what you might call a ‘spring chicken’ of a parrot. But his gentle nature, friendly personality and love of company meant that he fitted into the environment and ethos of the school right away.
‘Kuzuku’ translates to ‘talking bird’ in Swahili, and the African Grey lived up to his name, often squawking ‘hello’ to greet his student carers, or whistling and clicking while they practised their literacy by reading stories out loud to him.
SchoolsCompared visited South View School last year to meet Kuzuku and his troupe of student carers, and we were touched by their immense love for and dedication to the animal. In a school full of inspiring teachers, it was Kazuku who inspired the best work of all: if children did well in their lessons and finished on time, they could earn the privilege to visit Kazuku and feed him or administer his medicine.
At the time of our visit, Kazuku’s home was based in the office of South View School Head of Primary, Samuel Holliday. Here is a video we made as part of our ‘My School Friends And Other Animals” video series: a safari of the UAE’s cutest classroom critters.
Since our visit, Kazuku has had a dignified retirement, and is now living with a South View School family.
Although the children adored having Kazuku around, it was felt that at his stage of life he would also enjoy a quieter life outside of the limelight.
But that doesn’t mean he has bid goodbye to the South View schoolchildren all together. David Flint, Principal of South View School, explains:
“Kazuku is now happily retired and living with a lovely family.
The children miss him, but he will visit them once a month.”
Will South View School consider bringing any new animals into the fold?
“Absolutely. We are currently discussing.
“I want an oryx [the official emblem of South View School] but have had to dial down the enthusiasm a bit. A reading dog has been suggested, but discussions are ongoing…”
Watch this space… And happy retirement to Kazuku the African Grey parrot!
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