Having done well in the first stage of in-person education, Turkey is ready to move onto the second stage, the country’s national education minister said on Tuesday.

“Our students who will start face-to-face education will be at school two days a week,” Ziya Selcuk told a news conference on the gradual shift from distance to in-person learning.

Underscoring that parents have the flexibility of sending their children to school or not, he said those students who elect not to attend in person will not be considered absent.

Turkey planned both in-person and distance education for the several grades of students who will start in-person lessons as of Oct. 12, he said.

Rural schools which do not meet the requirements of provincial public hygiene boards will not be able to continue in-person education, he added.

He also said there might be lessons on Saturday based on the students’ needs.

As the country will give free tablet computers to half a million students, as the president announced on Monday, Selcuk said the distribution will be coordinated by the national education directorates and delivered by schools to students in need.

He said they determined several criteria, including the income level of the family and the number of siblings of school age.

On Monday, Selcuk said on Twitter that in-person education in primary schools, rural schools, 8th and 12th grades and special schools will begin on Oct. 12.

Preschool and first-grade students started in-person education on Sept. 21 while other students continued remote education.

“We are starting face-to-face education in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 12th grades” in line with determined rules to ensure the students’ safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Turkey on Monday reported 1,603 more patients with the novel coronavirus and 1,320 recoveries over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

The overall patient count now stands at 326,046 with recoveries totaling 286,370, according to ministry data.

The death toll from COVID-19 reached 8,498 with 57 more fatalities.

* Writing by Gozde Bayar

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