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Using play to help the world’s children to heal, learn and thrive: David Whitebread Memorial Lecture 2024

This is a recording of the 2024 David Whitebread memorial lecture, on the first International Day of Play. The lecture was given by Dr Erum Mariam, Executive Director of BRAC Institute of Educational Development, and was followed by a panel discussion with global experts.



Dr Erum Mariam

Erum Mariam is the Executive Director of BRAC IED (Institute of Educational Development) BRAC University, in Bangladesh. Erum completed her PhD in Education from Cambridge University in 2008. She has extensive experience in scaling up education interventions both nationally and globally and played a role in the expansion of the unique BRAC-run Non-Formal Primary (NFP) Schools in the 1990s. Under Erum’s leadership, BRAC have developed the globally recognized Play Labs and Humanitarian Play Labs, focusing on early stimulation, children’s wellbeing, and parental engagement. These have transformed into green play labs and green humanitarian play labs integrating climate change adaptation with early childhood development and mental health.



Benjamin Perks

Benjamin Perks is the Head of Campaigns and Advocacy in the Division of Global Communications and Advocacy at the United Nations Children’s Fund, based in New York. He leads public and policy advocacy on the development and protection of children. Prior to this role, Benjamin has worked in many countries, leading programmes on demobilization of child soldiers, deinstitutionalization of children in state care, addressing child poverty, pre-school expansion and disability inclusion. Ben is Senior Fellow at the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham in the UK and an Associate Faculty Member at Oxford University Department of Social Policy and Innovation



Stephen Bailey

Stephen Bayley is a Research Associate with PEDAL and an Associate Member of the REAL Centre, University of Cambridge. His work looks at education for adaptability and how children in low-income settings develop skills like creativity and problem solving. Stephen has previously worked as an Education Adviser and Project Manager on programmes in Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania.


Zoe Dibb

Zoe leads the Program Quality and Impact team at Right to Play, an international charity that supports children and young people’s learning and wellbeing through play. Zoe has extensive experience of co-designing playful and participatory programs and research approaches with young people, including through the establishment of youth peer research networks in Africa, Asia, the US and UK. Prior to joining Right to Play she held roles at Girl Effect, Save the Children and Theatre for a Change, Malawi.

About the David Whitebread memorial lecture:


David Whitebread was an influential academic and researcher in developmental psychology and early childhood education at the University of Cambridge. He was actively involved in international research and outreach programmes, impacting the lives of many children by providing opportunities for learning through play. David was the founder of the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) and a committed advocate for children and play throughout his career.