Turkey’s Medical Association (TTB) has concluded that it is still risky to re-open schools in ‘high speed of transmission’ areas.
According to Mezopotamya Agency: “In an online press conference called ‘School Health in a Pandemic’, Professor Sibel Sakarya warned that reopening schools may increase the risk of coronavirus transmission, especially in the areas most affected by the pandemic”.
She noted that pupils and teachers, especially school staff and parents/carers, and the wider community at large will be infected if classrooms reopen in these areas.
‘High Speed of Transmission Areas’ remain ‘at risk’
The level of coronavirus transmission may increase if schools are reopened in ‘high speed of transmission areas’, she said. She noted that:
“International findings indicate that the rate of spread of infection is low when education is provided in non-crowded classes, taking necessary measures in schools with a good short-to-long term action plan. It shows that it can be possible to reopen schools, along with uninterrupted and sufficient monitoring, with daily testing for infected cases.
“However, if the rate of transmission is still high in places, it has been claimed that reopening schools may increase that risk”. She added: “Transparency and clarity are essential for social solidarity in this long-term process”.
With these potential risks related to school openings, she argued that ‘Online education should be reviewed’. The subject of ‘digitalization in higher education’, which is being discussed multi-dimensionally all over the world, should be examined, discussed and reviewed in terms of the concepts of universality, knowledge production processes and learning processes.
TTB’s recommendations are listed as follows:
• The strategy adopted should not increase existing inequalities in education, but rather aim to eliminate these inequalities even under pandemic conditions.
• The decisions of re-opening or re-closing schools should be made based on the criteria determined specific to our country, within the framework of scientific evidence and these criteria should be shared with the general public.
• The protection measures taken for pupils, teachers and parents in the risk group should be determined and shared with the general public.
• Rules about the physical conditions of interactions in schools should be carefully considered alongside measures to ensure that the rules are monitored. Social reactions to these rules should also be considered.
• Arrangements regarding course hours and break-times should be carefully considered.
• School health services should be restructured and activated.
• A system should be established in schools to address the needs of psychosocial services.
• The MEB should seek the opinions of relevant expert groups and non-governmental organizations in order to find effective methods to minimize physical contact in schools.
• There is a need for short and long term strategic plans. Unless there is meaningful participation by teachers and parents in all decision-making processes, effective implementation will not take place.