Students learning English as a second language gave talks to guests including the Mayor of Hillingdon Cllr Carol Melvin at an exhibition about the life of the German-Jewish teenager Anne Frank.
Students from Uxbridge College’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses acted as tour guides to the Mayor and her husband and Consort Andrew Melvin and other guests at the Anne Frank: A History for Today exhibition. The event took place at the College’s Hayes campus, where ESOL courses are taught, in the Learning Resource Centre. The Trust uses Anne Frank’s diary, in which she wrote about her experiences of being in hiding in a secret annex in Amsterdam during the Second World War, as a starting point for teaching young people about the Holocaust.
Cllr Melvin said: “I think the whole exhibition was absolutely amazing. It’s an incredible story of course and it was phenomenal what the students achieved especially considering that English is their second language and they have stood up in front of everyone. I thought they were wonderful.”
For some of the students, who come from countries including Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Poland, Turkey, Iran, Kurdistan, Eritrea, France and India, aspects of Anne’s story reflected their own experiences. Among those acting as tour guides were Osama Alattia, who came to the UK from Syria.
Osama, 19, who has been in the UK for around 14 months, said: “We have to learn from history. Reading Anne Frank’s diary has made me think about what is going on in my country where people’s lives are not safe either. I miss my family and can only communicate with them about once a month, but it is good to be safe in the UK and to get an education which was not possible for me in Syria.”
Jon Parish, Head of Creative Studies and English Language Teaching, said: “The work we did with the Anne Frank Trust UK was incredibly valuable and particularly powerful as many of the students who told Anne’s story have, like her, faced persecution in their own countries and been forced to leave their homes and their families. They may not have been taught about the Holocaust as students are routinely in the UK, although in many cases it was not difficult for them to see its implications for the world we live in today where unfortunately history continues to repeat itself. We are very proud of our learners and what they have achieved and also extremely grateful to the Anne Frank Trust for their valuable input.”
Robert Posner, Chief Executive of The Anne Frank Trust UK, said: “I was so impressed with Uxbridge College’s students - their dedication was palpable, they took their guiding incredibly seriously and the way they related the history of Anne Frank and the Holocaust to their own experiences was very moving. The Trust would be very pleased to work with Uxbridge College again in future on something similar as part of our continuing work to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination.”
The Trust has also invited a group of students to its headquarters to take part in a film being made about what young people gain from the experience and how it is relevant to their own lives, and to learn about how the Trust raises money, manages its education work, and runs the charity. Uxbridge College is the first College the Trust has worked with, in addition to its work with schools, prisons and in the community.
As well as teaching the students about Anne Frank’s life, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and the Second World War, the exercise helped them improve their presentation skills and gain confidence in participation.
Anne Frank, her family, and four others went into hiding in the annex during World War II to escape Nazi persecution. The group was eventually betrayed, discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the age of fifteen.