With mixed feelings and marks, some 18 million students in Turkey started their summer break on Friday. The school year, which started on Sept. 6, 2021, came to a close with traditional ceremonies across the country for students to get their yearly report cards.
Classes were an alienating experience for some who were forced to attend remote lessons for more than a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, schools welcomed students who were confined at home for months, amid tight measures, including mandatory masks and social distancing, for in-person education. For months, students attended classes with masks before finally getting rid of them when Turkey eased the mask mandate this spring. Schools did not report a high number of coronavirus cases like elsewhere in Turkey during the first semester when the pandemic cases skyrocketed and they dodged the clusters of cases early in the second semester as well, with few outbreaks. But getting accustomed to school premises after one and a half years in remote education was another challenge for students, as well as teachers, but the joy was in the air on Friday as they celebrated the end of the school year, which will resume in September 2022.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was among the officials attending ceremonies on Friday, meeting students in Istanbul. In a speech, he said that Turkey had always set education as a priority over the past 20 years, corresponding to his party's rule. "We are in a multifaceted struggle to raise the quality of education, make education more widespread and achieve equality of opportunity in education," he said.
Erdoğan noted that Turkey has always allocated the lion's share to education in all budgets prepared by his Justice and Development (AK) Party governments. "We have inaugurated in our 81 provinces a large number of educational institutions, from kindergartens to primary schools, from secondary schools to high schools and universities," said Erdoğan.
"That is why we see education as the beginning of every project. That is why we mobilize all our resources for education. We consider every penny spent on education as the biggest investment made for Turkey's future," he also said. "We want every kid of ours, boys and girls alike, to receive an education, and the child of every citizen, rich and poor alike, to pursue the highest quality of education," the president added.