Teacher Stories: Basam - Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan


This story was collected as part of Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) Event Series to ensure that the voices and experiences of teachers working in crisis and displacement permeate all aspects of the event. For more stories, click here.

Capacity Building through Relief International Initiative

Basam Al JabrName: Basam Al Jabr

Role: English Teacher

Location: Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Basam Al Jabr arrived in Za’atari camp Jordan, from Da’ara Syria in 2013. There is a distant gaze in his eyes when he speaks of the horrors of the conflict in Syria that forced him to take his family and move to Jordan. Although life is anything but simple inside the camp for him and his family, it is a far cry from those days.

Living as a refugee with a family that currently has five generations living together still; an income source had to be created by Basam for the sake of his family. He was an English language teacher as well as translator in Syria and worked with many international organizations and private offices as a translator. He has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Damascus but could not complete his Master’s degree in the same due to disruptions caused by the conflict in Syria. Nevertheless, fortified with his Bachelor’s degree and body of experience, he joined Relief International as a volunteer to teach English language in the RI Makani center.  ‘I joined RI as a volunteer on the first day of RI work in Za’atari camp’, Basam beams with pride while saying that.

Always enjoying his subject and teaching in general, Basam felt not only a sense of purpose return in his life but also a zest for improving himself as a teacher. He started off as a primary and secondary level teacher of English as there were no Tawjihi students at the time. However, he was hopeful and aware that sooner or later Tawjihi aspirants will be joining the center too and he needs to be well equipped with better teaching skills when that happened.

He recalls that during the start of educational programs at Za’atari, the formal schools that were frantically inducting refugee children into it were over burdened with a large number of students. There was no possibility of arriving at any sensible teacher student ratio and each classroom on an average had up to 60 to 70 students. He states the establishment of educational centers like the RI Makani center was the best thing that happened to these children as the organization of educational program in the camp became much well organized bringing large scale benefits to the children. He claims that RI Makani centers’ reputation as the best center for education is a well-accepted one throughout the camp as many parents prefer to send their children for remedial and informal education to the center. It has even managed to arrive at a very favourable teacher-student ratio of 20 to 25 children per classroom per teacher that enables a smoother dissemination of teaching as well as classroom management.

Basam from the very start was proactive about acquiring specialized training that was provided to him through the agency of RI and its partners. His main aim has been to improve his ways of teaching especially by replacing traditional oral narrative methods with more new age practical learning. To illustrate this point, he refers to the training he received at the RI Makani center called ‘Fun with Learning’ that introduced him to the idea of using songs, visual aid materials along with learning based games in class. He feels that such innovative teaching methods are important ways to not only enhance teachers’ capacities but also attract many out of school students back into the classroom. Such trainings in teaching were supplemented with training in Life Skills, Communication Skills as well as means to better deal with children with Special need through RI initiative.

The most important training he received last year was through RI partner British Council. These trainings in the use of enhanced English language teaching skills and activity based learning have not only helped him become an effective communicator but has enabled him to infuse sustained interest among his student body in his classroom. He has received training in dealing with a classroom of mixed abilities that is highly progressive in the context of a refugee camp educational setting. He is now a teacher trainer with British Council and even made a remarkable presentation before a body of foreign delegates during the International British Council conference held in Za’atari camp in March this year.

Basam now teaches Tawjihi students and takes immense pride in his first batch from last year out of which some students successfully acquired scholarships and are pursuing their university education in Jordan. He thanks RI for bringing back a sense of renewed purpose in his life which he felt was lost due to the conflict in Syria and the subsequent displacement of his family to a refugee camp. He hopes to continue his efforts at becoming a better teacher and wishes to contribute in a larger way to RI activities in the camp.


The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.