ANKARA, Turkey -- Educational institutions reopened in Turkey on Monday for in-person classes after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the attendance was strong on the first day in capital city Ankara.
While some parents seemed still apprehensive to send their children to school due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is still raging, many were relieved for the return to face-to-face education.
"It's been very difficult with online education, both for us and the children, it's a relief that schools are welcoming students to again," Nedret Yavuzalp, a commercial officer in a company told Xinhua in the yard of a private school located in the Cankaya district.
A festive atmosphere was seen at this school as students attended classes for the first day of the fall semester. The staff were making sure for mask wearing and social distancing, while only the pupils were allowed to enter the building.
"Education is something that cannot be left behind, children have already lost very valuable time at home, it is now time to return to normal," Yavuzalp said after dropping his 14-year-old son.
Students will attend school five days a week like it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The return to in-person education covers about 18 million students and more than 1 million staff. Universities across Turkey have also reopened.
First graders and preschoolers started in-person education for a couple of hours a day last week according to an orientation program to accommodate them in schools.
In-person education has been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which forced authorities to switch to remote classes first and later to a hybrid education model with online classes and in-person classes for some grades offered together.
New official guidelines announced last month recommend full vaccination for parents, teachers, education staff, school bus drivers and canteen employees.
On Sunday, Turkey lowered the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility ago to 12, a move which aims essentially to prevent contagions in schools, the Health Ministry announced.
Meanwhile, unvaccinated teachers and other staff at schools would be required to regularly provide negative PCR test results in order to attend in-person education.
The same will apply to the unvaccinated for intercity bus travel, flights and attendance to crowded events in cinemas, concert halls and theaters.
"In our school, there is no unvaccinated personnel, everyone here is fully vaccinated, this is something we feel very strong about," Zeynep Akinci, an education expert said in the private establishment.
Professor Selma Metintas, a member of the Health Ministry's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, said remote education is not "sustainable." "We have to trust the facts provided by scientific studies. Education is the most basic need of people, as vital as food. Schools are the second most important place for socialization after home," this doctor told private Ihlas News Agency.