Students at Webster’s Corners elementary in Maple Ridge got a lesson on the war in Syria while learning a famous Arabic song, asking for peace.
The students learned the song Atouna El Toufouli, made famous in 1985 when a six-year-old Lebanese singer named Remi Bendali performed it at the official residence of the Lebanese president at the time.
Judi Almasalmeh, a Syrian refugee and student in Andrea Shay’s Grade 2/3 class, wanted to sing the song after talking about Canadian veteran experiences for Remembrance Day.
She picked Atouna El Toufouli, or ‘Give Us Childhood,’ because it is a song asking for peace for the victimized children of war in the Arab world.
The song starts off by wishing the listeners a happy holiday, then asks where are our holiday decorations?
My land it burned down. My land is stolen freedom.
Give the peace back to it, give us childhood.
I am a child with something to say. Please listen to me. I am a child who wants to play. Why don’t you let me.
The song is sung in Arabic, French and English, and the mp3 download was accompanied by images of war, including a displaced family around a fire and children on the streets, surrounded by the rubble of buildings.
“A lot of [the students] don’t know [the war] is going on there. It was a shock to some of them,” said Shay, adding that all of the students’ parents were open to their children seeing the video.
“I even had a couple of kids crying over it,” Shay added.
The students spent three weeks practicing the song at home and first performed it in front of the school a day before Remembrance Day, during an assembly.
“The teachers were touched by it,” said Shay.
“It was an emotional performance.”