Feature: Turkish children, teachers hope to return to school as COVID-19 vaccination about to start

Source: Xinhua| 2021-01-09 18:20:44|Editor: huaxia

ISTANBUL, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Atay Olgun's only wish for 2021 is that with the COVID-19 vaccination campaign Turkey is expected to launch soon, he could return to his junior high school to reunite with his classmates.

"I never thought I would be dreaming of going back to school. I was never an A-grade student, but I am dead bored at home with online education, and I miss my friends," the 13-year-old student of a private school in Turkey's capital Ankara told Xinhua.

"Some days, I even do not want to go outside our apartment. My routine has completely changed because of this virus. The worst is that I rarely see my friends in person other than when we play online video games," the teenager complained.

Olgun has not gone to school for months, and he hopes that the mass inoculation may pave the way for in-person education across the country.

"After the vaccines, at least we will be able to see each other even with masks," he said.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020, Turkey has closed down schools several times and adopted hybrid classes for primary, middle, and high-school students in between.

Currently, all schools have been closed since late November 2020 because of a second wave of the pandemic.

There is no official statement on the reopening of schools yet. But recent reports suggest that the government may decide toward this end as active cases are on the decline.

They may reopen after the winter break on Feb. 15, depending on the number of daily cases which has so far dropped to about 11,000, according to reports.

Turkey has purchased the first batch of 3 million doses of the Chinese SinoVac vaccine and is expected to roll out a mass inoculation campaign later this month, starting with health care workers and the most vulnerable. Vaccinations will be conducted in several phases, and teachers are also the targeted group.

Those under 18 are not expected to be inoculated at this stage, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday evening in a statement following a meeting of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board.

"People will receive two doses in 28 days," the statement said, adding senior citizens over 60 will also receive jabs during the campaign.

Sevinc Turkkan, a 41-year-old editor, said she would be relieved if her daughter's primary school was to reopen.

"My 10-year-old daughter began to suffer from anxiety, particularly about falling behind at school. She feels that when she is not at school, physically, she can't learn her lessons properly," Turkkan told Xinhua.

"Even though I also work from home, I find it difficult to supervise her home learning. She often plays with her tablet, saying she has already completed all her homework. It is also difficult to entertain her," she said.

Indeed, the COVID-19 vaccination points to the possibility of resuming in-person learning, according to Turkish Education Minister Ziya Selcuk.

"It will pave the way for us to conduct face-to-face education," Selcuk told the state-run Anadolu agency last week, noting talks with the Health Ministry are going on for the vaccination of teachers following high-risk groups including the elderly and healthcare professionals.

Teachers themselves are also eager to return to traditional schooling.

"During the past months, I have turned into a technician more than an educator because of all these hi-tech gadgets," said Emrah, a Turkish language teacher, referring to the cameras, microphones, and applications he has to use to exercise his profession.

"Let's return to our classes as soon as possible where we can once again interact with students face-to-face even if we would continue to wear masks," added Emrah, who declined to give his surname. Enditem