Two weeks after in-person education began for kindergarten students and first graders, schools welcomed students of vocational high schools across Turkey. Under new measures against the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools earlier this year, more students returned to classrooms Monday.
With the exception of ninth graders who did not pick a branch at the schools offering a diverse array of courses, all classes began with teachers issuing instructions on how to act in this new era of education during the pandemic. Free masks were given to students who arrived without a mask.
“I am not afraid to be here, but I am excited. It is like my first day of school,” Onur Emirhan Gök, an 11th grader at a vocational high school in Istanbul's Bağcılar district, told Demirören News Agency (DHA). “I missed my school very much and hope there won’t be any problems (regarding the outbreak),” he said.
The reopening covers all vocational high schools, from those specialized in industrial branches like furniture making to schools of fine arts and physical education. The Ministry of National Education earlier issued a set of guidelines for pandemic measures for reopening while limited vocational training courses and internship programs for students of those schools resumed on Sept. 28. Staff at each school will regularly inform the students on measures, while class hours were rearranged to prevent crowding at schools. Students will attend classes in smaller groups than before, and each class will be 30 minutes with 10-minute breaks between. In-person education for vocational high schools will cover only classes that need field training or training at school, while theoretical lessons will be provided via remote learning programs. National Education Minister Ziya Selçuk said earlier that vocational high schools need to be reopened for in-person education as workshops at schools can only function that way, not with remote learning.
The fate of other grades remains in limbo for now as the government moves ahead upon the advice of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board for in-person education. They, in turn, evaluate the resumption of in-person education based on trends in cases.
Turkey reported 1,429 new COVID-19 patients and 57 deaths in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday. In a statement, the ministry said 104,402 tests had been carried out, while 1,182 patients had recovered in the previous day. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca noted that 1,475 patients were receiving care in the intensive care unit, as he urged everyone to heed the advice. "We will win if we are united," Koca said. Over 285,000 people have recovered from COVID-19 in the country, while 8,441 people lost their lives as a result of the deadly virus. After going through the worst of the outbreak and managing to lower the number of daily patients below 1,000, Turkey has been witnessing a resurgence in new infections. In an effort to halt the steadily rising infection rates, the government introduced several measures. It made wearing masks outside mandatory across all provinces and began running mass transit at a reduced capacity.
Schools help battle outbreak
Vocational high schools stood out during the pandemic. Tapping into their experience in mass production, they provided an additional lifeline to the economy struggling with the outbreak and in eight months, earned TL 230 million ($29.6 million) from the sale of products they produced in their workshops. Their revenues increased 20% compared to the first eight months of 2019. More importantly, they directly contributed to the fight against the coronavirus with new products, from masks and face shields to sanitizers. Students and staff worked for months to mass produce the items while schools were closed to education. At vocational high schools and lifelong learning centers, students and teachers have produced 50 million masks, 1 million face shields, 6 million liters of surface sanitizers, 600,000 liters of hand sanitizers and 25,000 liters of cologne so far.
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