A girl wearing a face mask has her meal at a school in Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 21, 2020. (Xinhua/Mustafa Kaya)

Turkish parents, children try to adapt to remote education

Many children and parents in Turkey have been facing fresh challenges in this school year as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed lifestyles and forced people into a new normal, which prioritizes a remote education model.

“The words ‘I’m bored’ are the most frequent things I hear from my 12-year-old son in the last weeks and months,” Yasemin Sayar, a part-time accountant from Istanbul, told Xinhua.

She explained that as she has been working from home since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Turkey in March, she witnessed different effects of the remote education on her child.

“It is a developing process. At first, it was very difficult for everyone, but with the start of the new school year (in early September), things became a bit more fluid, though we are still trying to adapt,” she said.

Turkey closed schools and universities with the start of the pandemic to curb the spread of the virus and six months later, on Sept. 21, reopened them with limited in-class lessons for preschoolers and first graders only.

Now millions of students have to rely on online education offered by the Turkish state through public television channels, a scheme that is generally working well.

Though daily coronavirus cases are on the decrease in the last week after a resurgence, between 1,400 to 1,500 daily, the pandemic lingers on and continues to pose a lethal threat. Therefore, no decision has yet been taken to resume the entire education system for all.

“It is a real challenge for parents and children who are trying to do the best that they can. With no physical interactions with their teachers and their peers, the daily routine can get boring and dull,” said Zeynep Akinci, a teacher supervisor from an Ankara private school.

“It can lead to a lack of attention and also trigger a decrease of interest to the learning process as a whole and higher levels of anxiety in both parents and students,” she indicated, noting that the Education Ministry, teachers, and education experts are there to help people in need.

Akinci added that students in her school, which also offers online classes, say they are happy but lack the most the joy of being physically there with their classmates.

But in-person education for all is not expected to happen soon.

“It is difficult with these numbers,” said Yesim Tasova, a professor of medicine, commenting on the resumption of in-person classes.

Tasova, a member of Turkey’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, which shapes government policies on fighting the outbreak, said to private Ihlas News Agency that the board is considering new restrictions for in-person education.

“It is proportionate with age. The younger the person, the more negligent they will be in terms of following the rules. Certainly, the disease is less severe for young people and children, but they still pose a risk for older family members,” she said.

“I believe some restrictions will be inevitable,” she added.

Tasova also said university students would better adapt to measures and may be safe to begin in-person classes sooner.

Meanwhile, online education can be a burden for remote villages of Turkey and for less fortunate families who do not enjoy the access to Internet and the necessary technology.

Many volunteers and teachers are reported to roam distant villages in Eastern Turkey where there is no Internet connection, and organize safe classes with students respecting social distancing.

Private and municipal initiatives to donate laptops or tablets to families in need are also trending on social media in these times of health crisis.

And in these days of remote education, sales of computers and tablets are said to have jumped threefold last month, according to industry representatives.

Sales of personal computers could easily exceed 2 million units or more by the end of the year, up from 1.6 million units in 2019, if the supply issue is resolved, the Turkish Dunya daily reported.

The tablet computer market is also expected to grow by over 60 percent by the end of the year.