British schoolchildren learn horrors of 9/11
A London school has become one of the first to use a recently launched website to educate children about 9/11, tackling the issues head-on as the 10th anniversary of the attacks approaches.
Certainly for some of the youngsters at Burlington Danes Academy, it is clear that details of the attacks, which changed the world we live in, are far from clear.
"I didn't know the planes were hijacked and that there were innocent passengers on board," 14-year-old pupil Elizabeth Olugbebi admitted to AFP.
And classmate Jowhara Jahangir added: "my parents told me about the crash, but not about the Pentagon".
Addressing the complexities surrounding the events of 9/11 is a sensitive task in any circumstances.
Britain's schools are broaching the subject after discovering how little the nation's children knew about the attacks and their aftermath.
Peter Rosengard, chairman of the "9/11 London project" which created the online pack, said research in British schools last year revealed "the most incredible ignorance, confusion and misunderstanding" of the attacks.
Although Burlington Danes is a Christian school, it is non-selective: 70 percent of its pupils coming from a Muslim background.
History teacher Rachel Bedford, 26, acknowledged this made 9/11 "quite a sensitive topic to try to talk about.
"I don't think they (the pupils) know very much," she added.
"They would have been three or four when it happened. If you show them an image of it they would have some rough idea, but I don't think they would really know about the causes and consequences."
London mayor Boris Johnson launched the downloadable pack on Monday, promising it would "demolish conspiracy theories" surrounding the attacks.
Striking images from the website helped Bedford bring home to the pupils the all-encompassing nature and devastating scale of the event: a fireman's helmet; the remains of an aircraft; and a cuddly toy found in the debris of the twin towers.
The children also watched a video of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre towers and BBC's live coverage of the event.
Despite fears that the project could be used to indoctrinate youngsters, Bedford maintained the material provided was well-judged.
"I'd be really worried about teaching anything that was really pro-American and didn't tell the whole story, but I think it's balanced and there is a lot of space for children to think for themselves," she said.
But the lessons drew a mixed response from the pupils.
"You have to know about history in order to progress," Ondraya Morris told AFP. "I found it very interesting."
Classmate Ahmad Al-Shaibani disagreed however: he said it was too soon to be approaching the matter.
"9/11 is so sensitive, we should wait for another five or 10 years," he argued.
The 9/11 project website is at: http://www.911educationprogramme.co.uk/
© 2011 AFP