Leah Anyanwu is an Ed. M. Human Development & Psychology candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
FXB: What do you see as the biggest overall challenges in Child Protection these days?
Leah Anyanwu: The biggest challenge with Child Protection is the absence of a shared international approach for child safeguarding. The United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which has been signed by 196 countries, excluding the US. However, clear systems and protocols are not widely internalized and institutionalized to ensure that children are truly kept safe and allowed to thrive.
FXB: How do you think academic and scholarly work can inform child protection approaches? Have you seen any good examples of this in the real world?
Leah Anyanwu: The Nurturing Care approach, an early childhood development framework, is rooted in scholarly work. While most research on ECD is rooted in Western contexts, the body of evidence is becoming increasingly more diverse. In addition to making sure that research is locally relevant, we need to present academic work in a digestible way that will invite action and inspire discourse. Once we distill findings from research, we should work with communities to collectively make meaning and create culturally relevant approaches.
FXB: If you work in a specific region, are there region-specific challenges you see? How do you hope to see these addressed?
Leah Anyanwu: A physical and psychologically safe learning environment is a precursor for students to thrive. Unfortunately, corporal punishment and other psychologically abusive practices remain common practice across some schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not only is corporal punishment largely unsuccessful in changing student behavior, it contributes to poorer academic outcomes, poses physical injury to students, and make it difficult for students to develop healthy interpersonal relationships. My hope is that all schools across the region will integrate practices that are rooted in empathy, identity, and relationships and, ultimately, leverage a nurturing care approach to promote healthy whole-child development.