Turkey's first-grade and kindergarten students started school on Sept. 21, as schools "reopened" with COVID-19 precautions amid a second peak of infections. While the class schedule has been adjusted to minimize social interaction, parents are free to keep their kids home from school as attendance is not mandatory.
A recent survey by poller Ipsos revealed that an overwhelming majority of 90 percent want Ankara to implement either partial or nationwide curfews against COVID-19. A majority of the 87 percent who want a curfew opted for a nationwide implementation rather than a partial one.
Two school principals in the central Anatolian province of Konya died from COVID-19 on Sept. 13, a week before schools are due to open in Turkey. The Health Ministry reported 57 COVID-19 deaths overall on the same day, as well as 1,527 additional diagnoses.
Turkish schools are not ready to open, considering the lack of resources to prepare against the COVID-19 pandemic in the classrooms, an Eğitim-Sen representative said. Schools lack help staff and protective equipment, and safe distancing might be an issue, according to the expert.
Turkey's Education and Science Workers’ Union, better known with its abbreviation Eğitim-Sen, revealed that there are some 172 schools in Turkey where COVID-19 cases have been detected. The announcement comes as teachers are holding online make-up classes for the upcoming school year, scheduled to start on Sept. 21.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that the reopening of schools on Sept. 21 will begin with preschool and first-grade students. “This implementation can show difference depending on the city, due to the course of the epidemic,” Erdoğan said on Sept. 7.
The average school supply expenses for a student beginning school in Turkey this year has increased 21 percent compared to 2019, according to an Eğitim-Sen research. The current net minimum wage in Turkey stands at 2,324 liras, meaning it would take nearly an entire month's salary of a minimum wage earner to meet the school costs of their child entering elementary school.
Graduates of Turkey's Islamic Imam Hatip high schools suffered in the higher education entrance exams with only 16 percent of them scoring well enough to enter a bachelor's program. The generally low rate of success in the university exam is a display of poor policy-making by the Education Ministry, said a representative of the teachers' union Eğitim-Sen.
Turkey’s Ministry of Education has finally announced that it will delay face-to-face education until September 21. But dilemmas and questions remain.
Education Minister Ziya Selçuk has announced that schools will reopen on Aug. 31 with distance learning, but face-to-face lessons will not resume until Sept. 21. Selçuk's comments came after the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Science Committee suggested that face-to-face lessons should be postponed for at least a month amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Some 64 percent of Turkish people are of the belief that it is not safe to allow schools to reopen on Aug. 31 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a recent survey conducted by Metropoll. The survey also looked at how supporters of different political parties view this issue, finding that 53 percent of AKP voters do not support the government's planned move.
It appears that Turkey will face mounting problems with regards to the management of the pandemic in the coming weeks. As the government seeks control the pandemic, to be able to boast about its success story, the reality is that its ever-increasing oppression and lack of transparency do not help.
Two senior Turkish officials have told Reuters that the daily COVID-19 infection rate may need to dip below the more than 900 seen recently for the government to reopen all schools across the country. One of the officials said classes might have to remain online for some southeastern provinces. "The normalization is under way ... but the numbers should have fallen faster."
A Turkish Coronavirus Science Committee member said that the muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha would determine whether schools could reopen at the end of August. The professor noted that social traffic during celebrations could make infections spike.
A member of Turkey's COVID-19 Science Committee said that if parents voluntarily delayed their kids' attendance in school, they could prevent the spread of COVID-19 that results from congestion. The professor added that another solution would be an online-in-person hybrid curriculum.