Turkey resumed in-person education for rural schools and kindergartens on Monday as the second semester began amid the coronavirus pandemic. Schools in larger cities will remain shut for a while longer while a snowfall that gripped parts of the country forced some schools to delay reopening.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for a village school in the eastern province of Iğdır, Minister of National Education Ziya Selçuk said remote education would continue for closed schools.
After months of schools being closed in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, eighth and 12th graders, preparing for high school and university entrance exams, will be next to return to classrooms on March 1, along with preschools, special education schools, and primary schools.
"As of this week, we're happy to bring our students in all our country's villages together with their schools." Meanwhile, teachers will be included in the priority groups for vaccination against COVID-19 in the last week of February, with those teaching in-person lessons to receive their first doses. Village schools are prioritized for reopening as coronavirus cases are far lower in villages compared to cities and completely non-existent in some villages.
Noting the guidelines that the Ministry published for students and school administrators to follow during in-person education, Selçuk said separate rules had been set for "each common-use area."
High school exams postponed in the first semester are now to be held in-person in March. After partially reopening schools in late September, Turkey resumed distance learning on Nov. 20, 2020, until Jan. 4, 2021. Remote learning has continued on national broadcaster TRT's Education Information Network (EBA) channels and live courses, while all teachers can carry out live lessons through the network.
Meanwhile, heavy snowfall which battered western and northern regions of the country on Monday prompted authorities to shut down village schools in Kastamonu and Sinop in the north and Çanakkale in the west.
Universities also expect a reopening for in-person education. Professor Yekta Saraç, head of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) tweeted Monday that they hoped that the Health Ministry’s view on reopening would be "clarified" this week.
"We asked the Health Ministry for their opinion of reopening for the spring term. When they conveyed their opinion, we will make the necessary decisions (for reopening)," Saraç said. He also noted that a gradual vaccination program is needed for academics and other staff at universities for a healthy return to in-person education.