Turkey is counting down to the reopening of schools on Sept. 21, after it kicked off distant education on Aug. 31 with online classes. However, due to the lack of internet at home or limited internet coverage, many students are unable to access online classes. Teachers devoted to their profession are looking to fill this gap with their own means.
In a district of the eastern province of Van, where students had limited or no access to live online classes, "homeschooling" takes on a new meaning thanks to Gamze Arslan. Carrying a small writing board and books, the teacher visits each of her 18 students every day for classes at their home.
Arslan, who has been teaching in the province’s Tuşba district for the past three years, also delivers photocopies of notes and checks the homework in her one-on-one classes, usually held in the courtyard of student’s house while maintaining social distancing.
“Distance education is good but difficult for students without the internet,” Arslan said.
She first started delivering homework to students but decided to take the board with her when she noticed she could do in-person classes as well. “Students cannot comprehend much if you simply hand them homework, but they are better now when I give them lectures in person,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday.
In Muş, another eastern province, a group of volunteer teachers visits students living on a plateau where internet access is not available. Teachers first delivered textbooks, storybooks and coloring books to students and returned a few days later to check their homework. They also deliver disinfectants and masks to children and read to them with social distancing measures.
“We have live classes but not every student can attend, especially if they are in villages with no internet connection. There is not even cellphone reception, let alone an internet connection. So, we decided to visit those students,” Gülbeyaz Şahin Güneri, one of the volunteer teachers, told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Tuesday. “I am happy to reunite with my students. Teachers exist only if they have students. We need each other,” she said.
Distance learning is scheduled to continue until Sept. 18 via public broadcaster TRT's Education Information Network (EBA) channels and live courses. In-person classes will start “gradually” a few days later, according to authorities, and a “diluted” model will be applied where school hours are rearranged to reduce the number of students in classrooms at any given time. Education will alternate between live online courses and in-person classes.
EBA, originally conceived as a system for supplementary education materials, was transformed into a vital portal to continue the school year last spring when Turkey was forced to shut down schools in the face of the pandemic. Through EBA and videoconferencing apps, teachers connected with their students for some lessons before the school year ended. Private schools were allowed to reopen in August with remote education classes and courses for some grades aiming to make up for classes they missed due to the pandemic.
EBA Support Points were also set up in several provinces to help students without access to the internet. Students can attend live classes in those centers, which are furnished with computers. Remote education classes focus on last school year’s curriculum to help students learn what they missed and prepare them for in-person classes.