The state of schools

is unsafe. To my son’s former school administration, fire and earthquake drills were an annoyance and one that they preferred to ignore, leaving the children at risk not if, but when, the next large earthquake occurs.

Schools are supposed to hold regular evacuation drills so that all pupils know what to do in case of a fire, earthquake or other emergency situation. However, instead of planning ahead and ensuring that students and teachers know how to safely evacuate, these rules are openly ignored. According to my son and his classmates, during the time they were in school from fifth grade until the end of eighth grade, their school held only one fire drill that required students to evacuate the buildings.

Of course, the meeting point during the drill was in the courtyard, in between the two, three-story classroom buildings, which also happens to be above the underground swimming pool that is no longer in use because part of the ceiling fell into the pool a couple of years ago and it has never been repaired. Therefore, even if all of the students were safely evacuated during an earthquake, the meetup point puts them in immediate danger from collapsing buildings or pavement.

In addition, during the one drill held while my son attended this school, there was no representative from the fire or police department present during the drill to oversee it and offer suggestions to the school on how to improve the process. It is possible that if the school had held annual drills, the students would be better prepared for any emergency and if someone with a background in emergency response were present, they would have learned better ways to evacuate and get everyone to safety quickly and easily. Sadly, a lack of drills and preparedness is all too common in schools across Turkey, even though the country experiences devastating tremors on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, these problems are not uncommon in Turkey. Instead, it is scary and depressing to think that so many schools are open and operating that are ill equipped to deal with emergency situations and this seems to be the norm. Likewise, many schools lack modern, up-to-date equipment in classrooms, making effective teaching sometimes nonexistent. How many schools could be rebuilt or retrofitted to meet all existing earthquake building standards with the money spent on endlessly raiding and harassing schools? Parents, students, teachers and administrators should be joining together to raise their voices and demand that all children have safe, fully functional educational institutions.

Instead of spending time and resources in an attempt to shut down legitimate schools, the powers that be should re-evaluate their priorities and do whatever is necessary to ensure that students can learn without putting their lives in danger. The next generation deserves to have schools that are safe and up to date.