Despite the different countries and the differences throughout time, schools keep identical characteristics among themselves, due to the activities developed and also the receivers: children who learn the elementary skills of writing, reading, arithmetic and social rules, which in the past were designated “civility”.
Portugal has always maintained contact and cultural links with several European countries, which allowed the circulation of ideas and educational practices. Thanks to this circulation and different conceptions and experiences, we can talk of a cultural heritage brought together by a large group of countries, despite of all the differences. To know our educational practice, the students daily routine, all these activities developed in proper spaces, recognised not only by its architecture and also by its material, is to know profoundly not only the life of a country, but also to recognise the cultural mixture that we share.
In Portugal, schools were built by individuals, by collective societies, some by companies or by the Government. The individuals, who offered them to the Government, looked for some benefits, such as nobility titles or to be allowed to warrant a job as a teacher to a relative or just only for economic, philanthropic or social reasons.
The first drawing conceived for a primary school was the result of Count de Ferreira’s will (1866).
Count Ferreira school, in Fafe
The buildings had classic lines: a front with small triangular façade and a door with two windows. The student’s door was on the lateral front. The bell, on the main front, rang at the beginning and at the end of the lessons and it also called students to school. It had one or two classrooms and one smaller room for needlework. At the back the school was the teacher’s house and his/her family. The school owned usually a surrounding field, which was used as a vegetable plot for the teacher, and as playground for the students. The schools could be mixed or segregated. When the schools were mixed, the girls were separated from the boys inside the classroom and outside on the playground.
Some of these buildings still exist and were rebuilt. Some are still used as schools.
Count Ferreira school, in Cantanhede, still functioning
Count Ferreira school in Sta. Maria da Feira, transformed into a Police station
Main façade of Count Ferreira school, in Paredes, transformed into a Public Library-museum