Teacher Stories: Basem - Tripoli, Lebanon


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.

The Story of the Growing Tree

Name: Basem Idriss

Role: Principal

School: Tuyoor al Amal School

Location: Tripoli, Lebanon

BasemBasem is a Syrian man in his 40s, currently a refugee in Lebanon. He started his career as a math teacher, but he was working in educational administration when he left Syria because of the war. He is highly educated; he has a degree in Syria and is currently enrolled in the Lebanese university thanks to a scholarship). 

Basem is currently working as a school principal in a refugee-run educational project in Lebanon. These kinds of projects are not officially recognised because of the Lebanese legal framework. However,  authorities generally turn a blind eye and the "school" is at the border between non-formal and formal education, having recently found an (unofficial) way to get official certification for its students. 

Basem comes from a country with very traditional methods of education, but during his years of work he felt the need for some changes, and now, working with refugee children and their "special needs" he has developed the idea of a new method to run the lessons, which is further detailed in the story (below). In short, it is a method that aims at involving more  children in the learning process, also leveraging a sense of fun and competition within the classroom and reducing stressors such as tests/exams. Given is current condition, he doesn't have many ways to spread his ideas, hence why his interest in participating at the Roundtable.


My name is Basem Idriss, a former teacher of mathematics in Syria for pupils of the second cycle. I fled to Lebanon with my family in 2014, in search of safety because of the war. Currently, and it has been 5 years now, I am working as a principal of an informal school that teaches Syrian war children. I did not realise the true meaning of a ‘war child’ until I saw the war’s horrifying repercussions on my children at home and on students at school. One of the most important factors affecting a ‘war child’ is the loss of his desire to learn. As a humble educational supervisor for his country’s children, I had to find a radical solution to this problem, taking into account the other surrounding factors and the scarce resources available to us. Hence, I came up with the idea of ‘the growing tree’.

Undoubtedly, the greatest loss in wars and long conflicts is the emergence of an uneducated and ignorant generation which increases the society’s crime rates, underdevelopment, unemployment and the emergence of superstitions and extremism. This directly affects the countries involved in the conflicts, and indirectly affects the rest of the world;  this is a great burden for human development.

The most relevant outcomes of wars are on education:

  • Loss of the educational competencies and provisions that are capable of preparing an educated generation
  • Absence of educational methodology and supervision
  • Lack of suitable buildings for education
  • Lack of textbooks availability
  • Scarcity of educational means and instruments
  • Decreased learning motivation due to the loss of security and food and the lack of parental interest in education
  • Recurrently large numbers of pupils in a single class
  • Significant decline of the pupils’ educational level as a result of the aforementioned repercussions, in addition to the fact that, oftentimes, pupils from different regions and whose interest in education differ, are crowded in one place

Therefore, those in charge of the educational process must think and act to create a suitable learning environment within the available possibilities. They ought to generate motivation for the pupils to properly learn and achieve the schools’ educational goals, without relying on parents at home. Hence, the idea of ‘the growing tree’ came to life.

It is a competitive educational method aimed at provoking the instinctive motivations of the pupil, from the love of appearance to socialisation, to success, excellence and positive fear. It is structured as a learning process in which the pupil goes through simple, yet sequential steps and procedures according to a timetable. This timetable is thoughtfully prepared in advance by a trained teacher, who uses it to achieve the school’s educational goals, from memorising to analysing.


  1. Combines active learning and large numbers of pupils in a single class without having to conduct any exam throughout the academic year.
  2. It has limited costs, pupils do not need textbooks and it is easy to train the teachers on it.
  3. Develops the pupil's personality and public speaking and cultivates a spirit of responsibility and teamwork
  4. Employs the pupil’s instincts in achieving the required needs and transforms the educational process into a kind of a football league, in terms of competition throughout the academic year
  5. Increases the pupils’ concentration in class throughout the academic year
  6. Each piece of information is repeated five times in an interesting and competitive setting
  7. Achieves a high percentage of educational goals for the pupils, within the classroom

There is a saying from the scientist Albert Einstein: "stupidity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results". Yesterday 's war child is today’s father or mother whose dreams were lost. Today, he is my son and tomorrow he might be your grandson. The difficulties of applying the method and the curriculum are many, mainly centred on convincing the targeted educators of the need for a change. As educators whose life mission is to advocate doing good wherever we are, we all are involved. We have to join forces to fix our curricula and introduce courses about ethics and peace; these are instrumental means to ensure that none of our pupils will turn into thugs or war criminals and, therefore, to put an end to this recurring tragedy. By employing the pupil’s instincts to fulfil our educational needs, the “growing tree” can simply heal the wounds caused by war.


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