Dozens of vocational schools in Turkey have joined forces and begun producing essential items in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, becoming one of the most important actors of the country as the outbreak continues to spread and claim lives.
An article written by Deputy Minister of Education Mahmut Özer was published on Saturday, outlining the role of Turkish vocational schools amid the outbreak and arguing that they mobilized all facilities to meet the needs of society and support health professionals.
“The vocational education and training [VET] have been critical to Turkey’s wellbeing in a time of coronavirus pandemic. With increased capacity in production, VET has become one of the main suppliers of society these days,” according to the article.
Stressing that medical masks have become the most needed piece of equipment since the beginning of the pandemic, he said dozens of schools were able to produce a million masks in a short period of time, now reaching a capacity of 10 million masks per month, including at the standards of medical-grade N95 respirators.
He went on to say that vocational high schools also focused on the production of hygiene, cleaning and disinfection materials as well and that schools had the capacity to meet all cleaning material needs for approximately 54,000 schools across the country.
Given the fact that disposable items were now needed more than ever as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, vocational schools are provided with the necessary production equipment. They can manufacture products including disposable gowns and overalls, especially for healthcare workers, along with disposable forks and knives.
With the help of 3-D printers, the schools are also mass producing face shields and can supply up to half a million of them per month.
It was further stated in the article that engineers had built a device that could churn out tens of thousands of surgical masks on a daily basis and that this would be distributed to vocational schools in an effort to boost mask production.
Stressing that N95 masks were not as accessible due to the outbreak, the article said the Ministry of National Education had launched efforts to build hardware to produce such masks.
“[N]95 masks are either very few or not accessible. For this purpose, the Ministry of National Education started research and development for machinery production. The development process continues successfully and the first machine is set to be produced in April 2020,” it explained.
“Vocational education and training become an important source in the manufacturing of highly-demanded products in times of crisis,” said the article, adding that these efforts, along with the skills of VET students and teachers, had the potential to meet the needs of society.
Turkey has so far reported about 82,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and the death toll stands at 1,890 with nearly 10,500 people having fully recovered from the disease. The country has conducted almost 600,000 tests for the virus.
As part of national measures against the coronavirus, schools are currently shut down in Turkey, though education continues through remote lessons both broadcasted on the TV and uploaded online by the Ministry of National Education.
The novel coronavirus has spread to 185 countries and regions since emerging in China last December, with the U.S. and Europe now the hardest-hit areas in the world.
More than 2.3 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll over 158,600 and almost 589,500 recoveries, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.