Turkish schools reopen after months amid rise in COVID-19 cases

While schools in Turkey has reopened doors to students on Sep. 21 as part of the government’s ‘‘gradual and reduced’’ face-to-face education model after months, teachers from the Communist Party of Turkey published a statement on the issue, urging the Ministry of National Education to take comprehensive steps to make all schools healthy and safe for educational workers and students.
Tuesday, 22 September 2020 10:57

Kindergarten and first-year students in Turkey have returned to their classes on Monday as part of the government’s hybrid educational model including distance learning and ‘‘gradual and reduced’’ face-to-face education. Students will attend their schools only once a week for now, according to the information given by the Ministry of Nation Education (MoNE).

Schools in the country had been closed on March 16, days after the first coronavirus case in Turkey was confirmed. Turkish authorities had initially announced that schools would reopen on August 31. Yet, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases due to government’s failed and insufficient policies in fighting the virus under ‘‘normalization’’ steps taken for maintaining production caused the postponement of reopening schools to September 21.   

In a statement made last week, the MoNE claimed that schools are prepared for education and training activities in a healthy classroom environment, but the information provided from the schools contradicts with the so-called promising picture painted by the Ministry.

Employees such as cleaning staff and safety officers, who are vital for continuing face-to-face education in schools under pandemic conditions, have not been employed yet. Even recruitment postings have just started to be announced, and many schools are known to have a staff shortage to provide a healthy and safe environment for educational workers and students in schools amid coronavirus outbreak.

It seems that the Turkish government has put the responsibility entirely on the shoulders of teachers. As the areas of responsibility of the hall monitors start with the school bus, personal care and hygiene of the students will be under the responsibility of teachers.

Although the MoNE announced that education will start only in schools that have received ‘‘My School is Clean Certificate’’ responding to all required hygiene standards set by the Ministry, there are many primary schools and kindergartens in cities and villages of the country that has not applied for this certification.

This situation means that the MoNE could not provide its own hygiene rules in its own schools, and thus most of the schools have been reopened without hygiene certification.

The Minister of National Education, Ziya Selçuk, stated in a statement on Saturday that the relevant authorities will deliver free masks in schools within 3 weeks, revealing the fact that a sufficient number of face masks, which are vital to protection from COVID-19 infection, have not yet been sent to the schools opened on Sept. 21.

Furthermore, all students who will not start school on Sep. 21 will continue their education via distance learning.

The MoNE decided that the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students will continue their distance education via national broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT)’s Education Information Network (EBA) channels and live courses, while the seventh, eighth grade and secondary school students will take remote education through Zoom.

Turkish government’s EBA system receives a lot of criticism due to systemic problems regarding disconnection. How the lessons will be given on Zoom and how to share the ID numbers required for connecting to the courses with such a large number of students across the country is an issue of concern.


Issuing a statement regarding the government’s decision to reopen the schools in Turkey as of September 21 amid the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, teachers from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) said that the MoNE’s claims about the so-called safety and health measures in the schools and the information coming from the schools across the country contradict with each other, and called on the Ministry to take comprehensive steps to make all schools healthy and safe for both educational workers and students.

Drawing attention to the potential risks and problems educational workers and students could encounter, the teachers from TKP expressed their concerns about the reopening of schools without taking necessary health and safety measures and invited all teachers to fight for public education.

Underlining that MoNE has not taken necessary safety precautions to reopen schools amid the pandemic, the teachers from TKP noted, ‘‘Although schools have been closed since the middle of March 2020 when the first coronavirus case was confirmed in our country, we have experienced all together that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MoNE have shown no will to open the schools to face-to-face education and training activities in a healthy and safe environment, and that how the government authorities left the necessary preparations in fighting the COVID-19 in the educational sphere to the initiative of school administrators, teachers and parents.’’

‘‘We warn the MoNE and the Minister of National Education, Ziya Selçuk, once again. Keep in mind that if the necessary precautions against the pandemic conditions are not taken in our schools, the responsibility will be with the MoNE and we will be strictly monitoring any negligence that could lead serious consequences regarding the health of our students and educational workers,’’ the teachers from TKP also stated.

Highlighting that the negative impact of the privatization of education on class inequalities has become much more visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the teachers from TKP said, ‘‘For months, we have witnessed all together how the privatization of education negatively affects the future of our children, and how our public schools were left to their fate when the state withdrew from this area of responsibility, and how millions of our children were excluded from education, which is one of their most fundamental rights.’’

‘‘We invite our parents to defend and fight for our children’s public right to scientific education in healthy and safe circumstances,’’ the teachers from TKP concluded their statement.