Chris Whitty’s alma mater will decolonise courses on tropical diseases as the field has been guilty of “upholding European colonialism and white supremacy”.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which has provided advice and research during the Covid-19 pandemic, is reworking its curriculum to make it “anti-racist”.
Courses spanning sexual health and epidemiology are being reviewed to address “colonialism and racial discrimination” in public health, a field allegedly guilty of upholding “white supremacy”.
This is according to a guide issued to staff, and seen by The Telegraph, warning that graduates could spread colonial ideas and “Eurocentric” scientific knowledge obtained by “white, male” experts.
To prevent this, teaching material and reading lists at the alma mater of the UK’s Chief Medical Officer and also of Tedros Adhanom, the World Health Organisation’s director, are being reviewed, with staff advised to “de-privilege white European and North American men”.
Staff have been told to focus on how they have benefited from this racism if they are “white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-heterosexual, European or North American, and do not have to worry about our immigration status”.
In a preliminary “dos and don’ts” guide, it is advised not to use photographs of health programmes which “perpetuate the white saviour myth”.
The guide urges faculty to highlight how “colonialism and racism impact and weave their way through health-related research” in the fields studied at the school, based at the University of London.
These measures will address the claimed “postcolonial power relations” in the school’s subjects and the “prevalence of white privilege in global health”.
Tests and teaching practices will be revised with the help of a “self-awareness” of “colonial and post-colonial power dynamics”, the guide said, and microaggressions that could offend students or make them feel “racialised”.
Staff have been asked to consider whether “someone from the Global South” could deliver lectures instead of them, and the “problematic” use of fictional countries as examples in teaching material about pandemic outbreaks and other health issues.
This work will not just be limited to practical steps taken in lecture theatres, instead a process of “decolonising the mind” will be encouraged.
This is to prevent colonial thinking about population and geographic regions absorbed at the LSHTM being “carried into the world” and perpetuated by graduates, according to the authors of the guide.
The decolinsing guide raises concerns that these attitudes could influence public health practice in the UK, and more pressingly to “formerly colonised regions”.
Guide authors have suggested that staff unfamiliar with decolonising can begin by reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, or Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World.
Decolonising is understood to be an ongoing process at the institution, which was founded in 1899 by former Colonial Office medical advisor Sir Patrick Manson, who pushed for greater work to be done on tropical disease to safeguard imperial employees abroad.
The guide for addressing colonialism, which is only the beginning of the work, states that “decolonising the curriculum is not about punishing past behaviours”, but adds that all of academia has benefited from colonialism to some extent.
Professor Kara Hanson, leading the decolonising work at the LSHTM, told The Telegraph: “We are making significant progress to ensure our learning materials are inclusive and do not include racist or colonial perspectives and language.
“Module organisers are reviewing materials and new feedback opportunities have been put in place for students to evaluate them.
“Eight decolonising the curriculum facilitators have been appointed to support teaching staff, and a series of ‘decolonising the curriculum – in conversation’ events has showcased how other institutions have been tackling the challenges of decolonising their curricula.
“A new post within our Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching will shortly be advertised to support inclusive curriculum design and delivery.
“Decolonising the curriculum will take time but we are committed to fully engaging staff and students in the process.”