Geographically, Turkey is situated between Europe and Central Asia with three major fault lines, the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Anatolia Fault Lines, running through and at some points crossing each other in the country. These fault lines have caused many serious earthquakes of high magnitude for centuries. Although this is a known fact by the people of the past and present, many unsafe buildings including apartments, hospitals, government buildings, schools, and universities were constructed ignoring the reality of the situation.
The earthquake of February 6 (around 4 a.m.) destroyed large areas in Turkey and Syria. In Turkey, two independent earthquakes of high magnitude followed by 2,500 aftershocks that continue until today have destroyed 10 big cities, many towns, and villages. The epicenter was the city of Kahramanmaras. Since the fault lines were very close to the earth's surface, the damage was severe. The number of casualties officially announced is increasing each day. Considering the number of buildings completely destroyed, casualties are expected to reach 80,000 or more. People whose houses have not collapsed are not able to go into their buildings until authorities check the building safety and decide if the building is secure to live in. These people are staying either in their cars or in tents for the time being.
Can earthquakes be predicted? Most, probably not. Could precautions be taken? Most certainly, yes. This earthquake destroyed airports, hospitals, factories, business centers, and last but not least, schools. Help, support, and rescue teams have been coming from all over the world since the first day of the disaster. However, the catastrophe is so big that it seems as if nothing is quite enough. We are grateful to each and every one of the people who are out there helping or sending support to that area. More support is always welcome.
Education has been interrupted in Turkey. Some school buildings no longer exist in affected regions. A high number of students lost either their lives or lost their parents and relatives. All over Turkey, many organizations including non-governmental organizations, schools, and universities are supporting the victims of the disaster by sending them medicine, warm clothes, food, tents, portable toilets, etc. (it is below zero degrees Celsius in those cities). Homeless people, very great in number, are transported to other cities and towns. They have nothing, not even their identity cards. As the citizens of this country, we are trying not to lose hope knowing that the social, economic, and psychological aftermaths of this tragedy will have a great impact.
With these consequences in mind, and as an organization working with schools, educators, and students, we at Mind Academy and PTC Turkey are planning training sessions and activities to raise the consciousness level of the students, educators, parents, and younger children to help deal with this trauma and find ways to build resilience. With the younger children, we are planning to use game-based learning methodologies to make them understand what they should do in times of stress and how they should express themselves. Recognizing that those directly and indirectly affected need different approaches, we are also planning to provide psychological support from our professional team members who are experts in their fields.
With educators and older students, we also want to present training activities about self and community responsibilities. We want to support school leaders by giving them resources and suggestions on ways to help themselves, their teaching team, and students in terms of wellbeing and dealing with trauma. We would appreciate it if the international school community could share any suggestions, resources, or programs related to these issues. Turkey has a lot of experts working in the previously mentioned areas; however, we are aware of the fact that learning never stops and there is always more to share. Our greatest wish is to see schools become physically, socially, and emotionally safe environments as soon as possible, returning to a place where students are ready to learn, and teachers are ready to guide them to become lifelong learners. We are open to all suggestions, best practice ideas, and resources. We would like to express our gratitude to the PTC directors for reaching out to us since the first day of the earthquake and give thanks in advance to the international school community for their support.
We invite those affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria to share how education has been impacted and their needs moving forward by submitting articles to [email protected].
Melike Ates and Arzu Özçetin are the directors of PTC Turkey.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]