Aynur Tekin / DUVAR
As the new school year in Turkey begins amid the coronavirus pandemic, at least six million students are unable to access remote education due to a lack of internet or proper devices in their household, according to the educator's union Eğitim SEN.
“Forget about the internet, there isn't even a telephone network here,” said Serkan Yıldız, who lives with his family in a village in the district of Doğubayazıt in the eastern province of Ağrı. Yıldız was living out his childhood dream of studying journalism at Cumhuriyet University in the central Anatolian city of Sivas, but returned home to the village after Turkey's switch to distance education.
Yıldız is currently sharing a single smartphone with three relatives and one neighbor, and they are required to go to high points in the village in order to get internet access. Yıldız, his high school-aged sister, two elementary school cousins and an elementary school neighbor are all trying to receive their education from this one phone, but even when they find areas that have internet access, the connection frequently fades in and out.
Another problem that students trying to participate in distance education via smartphones face is the monthly internet quota, which is usually not sufficient to stream videos and other materials provided by the Education Ministry.Students in eastern Turkey walk miles to access internet necessary to attend remote education
“We gave up our hopes of getting free internet but they could at least give gradual discounts for devices. They can reach students who don't have these possibilities via local administrations and improve the infrastructure in villages,” Yıldız told Duvar.
“For example, one student said 'I won't be able to join this week, my mother's internet quota ran out.' The parents are getting in touch and notifying us about the situation. It is a major catastrophe for parents who do not have access to or the ability to provide their children the opportunity of education,” said Zehra Kulalı Gezici, a high school teacher in the province of Bolu and Eğitim Sen's Bolu branch chairperson.
Some families who don't have the means to buy more than one device are forced to choose between their children, such as Serpil Demir, a mother of two who lives in the central Ankara district of Çankaya and works as an on-duty staff in an apartment building.Turkey's remote education system crashes on second day of school
“We gave [the phone] mainly to our younger child to use since they just started school. We can't do anything for the older one, and their classes overlap anyway,” Demir said, speaking to Duvar with a pseudonym.
“We had the internet connected this month for the children, but that's it. At the moment we are having difficulty shopping for the house, we are trying to pay our debts. That's why I cannot buy another phone,” she added.
Eğitim Sen called on an extra budget to be provided to the Education Ministry to invest in distance education and ensure free and limitless internet access to all those participating. It also requested that students without access to a computer or tablet be provided with one, and that a 24/7 support hotline be opened for distance learners.'Quarter of Istanbul students can't access remote education materials'