How Is Education In Turkey After The Earthquake?

Two strong earthquakes on Feb 6, 2023 forced schools and universities in Turkey to close.

CNN reported that the earthquakes, which had magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5, were among the most fatal natural disasters in the past 20 years. The quakes caused significant disruption to the country’s socio-economic activities.

The earthquakes were strong enough to destroy many cities and towns in the southern part of Turkey, along with northwest Syria. As a result, the Turkish Council of Higher Education ordered all schools to close across the country. The government have closed all schools in Sirnak, Mardin, Diyarbakir, and several other provinces until further notice. The government’s decision to move students out of dorms and switch to online classes is making people upset.

A lot of students don’t like this because they don’t have the right equipment at home for online classes. Some even stated that they don’t have good internet or a quiet place to study.

How many people were affected by the earthquake in Turkey?

The earthquake affected many provinces in Turkey, where 13.5 million people live, including 2 million Syrian refugees. The earthquake also affected Syria, which is home to around 23 million people, including 1.4 million children.

UNICEF has reported that 2.5 million children require urgent humanitarian aid in the disaster zone.

According to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), 45,089 people lost their lives and 115,000 were injured.

After the disaster, a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that 2.7 million people moved away from the affected area.

The earthquake led to numerous aftershocks, including a second major one that caused additional damage to the already impacted areas.

Many buildings have collapsed, and people are staying outdoors due to the risk of further damage from aftershocks. Many people have been evacuated, and there are still power and water cuts in some areas.

How were students affected by the earthquake?

Many students lost their homes and had to live in temporary places.

While helping younger students, a teacher noticed that they were playing with building blocks and pretending to experience earthquakes. It was a way for the children to understand what happened and feel like they can help.

Some students are now feeling distraught and have trouble sleeping or feel scared. Doctors are helping them feel better.

On February 20, the Minister of National Education in Turkey announced that schools would reopen in 71 provinces. However, education would remain suspended in 10 provinces affected by the earthquake until March 1.

The decision by the Turkish state to open state-run student dorms to earthquake evacuees has faced a backlash from senior students and academic staff.

State dorms can house only 800,000 students, but hotels in the country can accommodate 2 million people.

This has raised concerns about moving earthquake survivors to dorms that may not be suitable for housing.

Reports have also emerged of chaos at the dormitories, with students receiving little notice to vacate their rooms.

What does the future look like for University students in Turkey?

Students began online learning on Feb. 20th, and the Education Department may decide in April whether in-person schooling will also be permitted.

Students can apply for a ‘special student status’ if they were affected by the earthquakes or had family in the areas hit by the earthquakes.

This will allow them to study at a different university and still get credit for the classes they complete. This will help students keep learning and catch up on anything they missed because of the earthquakes.

The decision to switch to online education has faced criticism. Many students do not have access to essential technology or internet connection for online learning. Some students have also voiced concern about the quality of education they will receive.

Others have argued that online classes are not an adequate substitute for in-person classes.

Academic staff are worried about how online education may affect students’ mental health and academic progress. 

Is distance education the best choice for earthquake-affected areas?

Distance learning allows students to learn without being in the same place as their teachers. Students can use their computers or other devices to learn online from anywhere with internet access.

The public opinion is that shifting to online education will create new problems instead of solving any existing ones. 

We should keep in mind that the earthquake-affected country is also facing limitations, such as disruptions to network and internet connections. Along with the fact that half of the country is still experiencing electricity issues adds as trouble.

Students are protesting due to inadequate study materials and an ineffective learning environment at home compared to in-class learning.

Higher education institutions encountered multiple challenges while shifting to mandatory distance learning during the pandemic.

This was due to their lack of experience and incorrect policies, which resulted in a substantial amount of failure.

Some believe that using the recent earthquake as an excuse to mandate online education again will not be beneficial for either students or educators.

Final Thoughts

The Turkish Government is making efforts to prevent the current situation from impacting education and is taking steps to assist both international and local students. 

However, distance learning is the best option for students for now, given the damage caused. Hopefully, as re-construction starts taking place, students will be able to return to on-campus education.

If you’re looking for more updates on the current situation of education in Turkey, sign up to EDU Passport and join the global community for educators!

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