Around 18 million students will go on their mid-semester holidays starting Friday, as the first term of a school year, held in-person after a long break, came to an end. For the first time in about two years, students have received their report cards from teachers personally, a ritual that was done digitally when in-person education was scrapped during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.
Schools reopened in September, a few months after Turkey lifted most of the restrictions, including curfews. Millions returned to classrooms amid deep concerns over potential new coronavirus waves, but the authorities insisted on the reopening in a bid to normalize daily life marred by the pandemic and subsequent restrictions. To ensure public health safety, the government pursued a policy of shutting down classrooms and isolate students and staff in the case of COVID-19 clusters. The approach mostly worked, without any major disruptions to education.
The second term will start on Feb. 7, while authorities do not plan to extend the break amid concerns over a new wave in the pandemic stemming from the omicron variant.
National Education Minister Mahmut Özer said Friday that compliance with the pandemic rules helped them continue in-person education. Speaking to reporters after he personally delivered report cards to students at a primary school in the capital Ankara, Özer said students strictly followed the rules regarding wearing protective masks, social distancing and hygiene. He said that for the past five months, the rate of classrooms closures due to infections was "below 1%" among the 850,000 classrooms across the country. "Some students may have poor grades but for us, they are all accomplished (in staving off the pandemic)," the minister said.
The minister also hailed "hero" teachers who were determined to keep the schools open and cited a high vaccination rate among educators, which helped in resuming in-person education. “I am grateful to our teachers who had to give lectures for hours while keeping their masks on, who were attentive to the implementation of the pandemic rules and joined the vaccination campaign,” he said.
On the other hand, experts warn that a two-week midterm holiday may further drive up the number of coronavirus cases, which fluctuate at around 70,000. They have expressed concern over higher mobility during the holiday as many people are expected to visit their hometowns or vacation resorts, eventually carrying the wave of infections to cities with less cases. By late February, the number of cases is predicted to peak in the country and reach 100,000.