Turkey will close its primary, secondary and high schools for two weeks, with remote education to begin in the second week as part of precautions against the novel coronavirus, the country's education minister said Thursday.
The announcement came after a five-hour meeting at the presidential complex amid the global coronavirus outbreak. Following the meeting, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin declared various precautionary measures for the coming weeks, including school closures.
Education Minister Ziya Selcuk said the closures would begin on March 16, with remote education to begin as of March 23.
"With the remote education system presented free of charge by the National Education Ministry as well as the Health Ministry’s protective and precautionary measures against the epidemic disease, Turkey is ready to become a model country with a television and internet-based curriculum prepared for the first time in the world on a national scale," Selcuk told reporters.
Selcuk noted that the system was also used earlier this year after a major earthquake struck Elazig province to enable students to catch up with their lessons, adding the same system with a new interface will bring lessons to households.
A magnitude 6.8 earthquake jolted the province on Jan. 24, killing 41 people and injuring 1,500.
He also said that those preparing for various exams, including university entrance and high school entrance examinations, will also benefit from the ministry’s free of charge academic support platform.
Selcuk said all mobile phone operators would also provide three gigabytes of free internet data for students to use in the ministry's online service.
“All content for students from primary school to the 12th grade has been prepared,” he said, adding students can choose to study either via television or the internet depending on their situation and preferences.
He said the ministry is also mobilizing all possible means to prevent a pause in children’s education and they have scenarios ready in case of any situation they may encounter.
Turkish Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services Zehra Zumrut Selcuk said on Twitter that private kindergartens, daycare centers and private children’s clubs will be shut as of March 16 until further notice.
Turkey confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, with the country’s health minister urging citizens to avoid international travel unless absolutely necessary.
The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 114 countries.
The global death toll is now over 4,900, with more than 134,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared the outbreak "a pandemic."
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