Physicians Warn: Pandemic is not Under Control in Turkey, Exams Should be Postponed – Ruken Tuncel

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Since the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) reached Turkey on March 11, education has been one of the much-debated issued on the country’s agenda. While millions of students, from primary school to universities, are now receiving education via distance learning, the ones who will take high school and university entrance exams are getting more and more worried.

Millions of students and their parents are still expecting the postponement of the high school entrance exam scheduled for June 20 and that of the university entrance exams scheduled for June 27-28.

But, is the pandemic really under control in Turkey, where measures are getting more and more eased? What do experts think about the exam dates? What do they recommend to students and their parents?

We have spoken with Psychiatrist Evindar Karabulut, a member of İstanbul Metropolitan Municiaplity’s (İMM) Science Board, and Public Health Specialist Prof. Kayıhan Pala.

Both Karabulut and Pala are of the opinion that not all data are announced in Turkey about the outbreak and there is a lack of transparency in that regard. They both emphasize that this uncertainty is leading students as well as the society as a whole to get more worried.

Karabulut and Pala have briefly stated the following to bianet:

‘Uncertainty increases anxiety’

İMM Science Board member Evindar Karabulut:

“Uncertainty is not something good for the mental health of people even under normal circumstances. Especially in periods of crisis such as this, in a period when there is so much uncertainty, people get much more worried.

“The situation in Turkey during the period of outbreak has been very ambiguous, which has caused the people in general and the students who will enter the exams in particular to get more anxious. When there is uncertainty, people always think about the worst. Parents and students are now thinking about the worst. That being the case, the primary duty falls on the shoulders of the authorities: They need to be clear.

‘Knowing the location of test doesn’t relieve anxiety’

“Millions of students take these exam to shape their future. However, while there are so many things that are expecting to be discussed and clarified, knowing the place where they will take the exam does not suffice to relieve the anxieties of students or their parents.

“Students are worried, they are wondering whether the exam will be difficult or not, how they will go to the place where they will take the test, whether the exam will be fair or not and whether their hard work will pay off. They are right for having these worries based on the past experiences in Turkey. We witnessed unjust acts such as the exam questions being stolen. It leads the students and parents to have a perception of ‘anything can happen any time’.

‘We are adopting a new normal’

“First postponing the exams, then backdating them will cause great anxiety and fear in students. Question marks about it need to be eliminated.

“On the other side, the outbreak is not yet under control in Turkey, exams have to be postponed. We are adopting a new normal now. We have to plan the whole life accordingly. We cannot continue with old methods.

“The exams must be held in a period when the uncertainties are resolved, with the new normal in mind. We will keep the outbreak under control if we implement long-term measures, we should not forget this fact.”

Pala: Exams are held when people are still dying

Public Health Specialist Prof. Kayıhan Pala:

“It has been two months since the pandemic broke out in Turkey; however, we still do not have data about the outbreak. Only the deaths are shared. We do not know the epidemiological* distribution.

“The Minister of Health previously called İstanbul Wuhan. It shows how serious the situation is. All facts need to be announced by province, gender and age. These data are important in terms of the potential of the disease to spread. We do not know how widespread the disease is, which means that it can spread quickly again.

‘It is not normalization, but opening’

“They avoid announcing the data, which makes us all concerned. What we live now is not normalization, but an opening. Workplaces were closed, they are now opening again. It is what is going on.

“While it is expected that exams will be postponed in such a period, they will be held at an earlier date. Parents and students are naturally worried. There is the disease, people are still dying, but they want to hold the exams.

Parents should make a call to Ministry of Education’

“What parents need to do now is to make a joint call to the Ministry of National Education. They should request the postponement of exams until the Ministry of Health shares all data and the outbreak is taken under control.

“We do not know how strong the immune systems of children are. We cannot risk the infection of a single child, of a single youngster.

“Also regardless of when the exam will be held, the conditions need to reviewed. There should be at least 2-meter distance, the number of exam halls need to be increased, that of students in a hall decreased and it needs to be ensured that the halls and contact surfaces are disinfected.” (RT/SD)

* Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems.

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