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Alsunga (Alšvanga) school

The first information about a school in Alšvanga dates back to 1567, when the owner of the Alšvanga manor, Friedrich von Kanitz, had a church, rectory and school built. This makes the Alšvanga school the oldest known school in the former Kuldīga district. Later, during the time of the Schwerins, a new school building was built and a special bequest of 300 Polish florins was established, stipulating that the salary of a teacher of the Augsburg (Lutheran) denomination would be provided with the fruits of the deposit. At that time, several owners of the surrounding manors also participated in solidarity in the maintenance of the school. They taught reading and arithmetic at school. After 1634, no information about the activities of the Alšvanga school can be found. It may have stopped working at some point.

There is very limited information about education in the Land of Suiti in the first half of the 19th century. In 1841 (and in 1849/50), 18 (10) children were home-schooled and tested in Almāle manor, 15 (10) children in Reģi manor and 9 (7) children in Sarkanmuiža manor. In addition, in 1849/50 the children in Reģi and Almāle were educated at home, but they studied faith at the school in Ēdola. These are the manors of Alšvanga parish, where mostly Lutherans lived. In these years there is no mention of any child being home schooled and tested in the Catholic Alšvanga, Blintene, Grāveri, Stirnu muiža or other manors.

From the 1841 report of the parish priest of Alšvanga, it follows that there was an intention to set up a school. But in July 1850, in the protocol of the bishop’s visit, it is written that there is no school in the parish of Alšvanga, so the priest was instructed to establish one. It is possible that this bishop’s order was fulfilled, because the dean’s report of 1853 states that there are parish schools near all the churches of the Courland deanery. But we cannot confirm it.

Around 1859, the Alšvanga parish school was located in Žīdleja (today Ziedleja). An Austrian German, Schmidt, worked there as a teacher, while also being a church organist. The school has only been open for 7 weeks before Easter.

After the first two years of operation, the school was moved to the Priest’s manor, where a German Jakobs Šimkēvičs, also an organist, worked as a teacher. He came from the parish of Lēnas and was educated at home, but in 1861 he passed the exams in the district administration in Liepāja. The teaching period in the school was from January to Easter.

Šimkevič’s teaching method and school management have been quite old-fashioned. The main thing that was taught in school at that time was reading. The older students were taught to write calligraphically and they were also taught arithmetic. They were seated at the so-called scribe table where thet tought the younger ones by reading aloud or even singing in front of them. However, the teaching has been very strict, the teacher himself never worried and accompanied the reprimand with very kind words, lovingly asking the culprit to lie down and also lovingly caressed the back with a braided leather strap.

The authority in the whole congregation has been great for the teacher, because he has played the organ, lived unmarried and even helped the priest to sing in Latin, why he was considered a semi-pastor. Šimkēvičs also taught the students lessons. He must have learned this in the seminary where he had spent some time. Šimkevičs also died and was buried in Alšvāng in his position as a teacher in Alšvanga.

In 1864, it has been stated about the Alšvanga school that 46 children from 118 school-age children attended and studied there.

Alšvanga Red school building was built in 1875. At first it was a one-story brick building. There were two teachers in the school – Jānis Aniņš and his assistant Jāzeps Miklavićs. They were both locals. In 1883, the municipal parish of Jaunā muiža also joined the school, financing and building the second, wooden floor to the school building. The school dormitory has existed there since 1877, but only in 1931, beds were installed instead of sleeping bunks.

In 1888, the teacher Šteinbriks came to Alšvanga from Līvbērze. He had all the rights of a teacher and was very active and musical. He played the organ well, sung in a powerful tenor and organized the church choir, teaching it to sing in Latin. He himself organized a brass band, which performed in the church, for which the people of Alšvanga were very impressed. This year, 134 students studied at the school.

In one sense, the teacher Steinbriks has been strange and has caused a lot of damage to the people of Alšvanga. He couldn’t stand the Suits, especially traditional men’s jackets and long hair, and he fought with all the possible means to combat these particularities of the Suiti, not excluding even pulling out students’ hair to force them to cut their hair. Such an action has been considered almost a revolution by the Suiti, but, as can be seen, they have at least partially obeyed the will of their teacher. Especially men who had gradually given up wearing their traditional jackets. Teacher Šteinbriks, despite his piety, was really a revolutionary in spirit and actively participated in 1905 political disturbances, why he was persecuted by the Russian government and was forced to leave Alšvanga.

In 1892, the Alshwang school was already converted into a two-class school with three teachers who had certificates of folk-school teachers. However, the number of students had not increased, as the total number of students in Alšvanga, Jūrkalne and Gudenieki schools this year is 240. This can be explained by the fact that there was a certain number of families, who sent their children to school, but in many other families it was considered unnecessary. Circumstances changed only in the 20th century with the introduction of general compulsory education, when every child had to attend school during their school years. Only then did the Alšvanga school began to grow, the number of teachers exceeding half a dozen, and the number of students several hundred. The Alšvanga school was strictly confessional, closely connected to the Catholic church, and the priests had a great influence there.

In 1925, the municipal parish board decided to hand over one end of the western building of the Alšvanga Castle to school needs.

In 1936, a 6-class elementary school with 12 teachers, 12 classes and 403 students was operating in Alšvanga. The school had a student cooperative, a hope group, a scout unit and a guides group, as well as a student choir and a common food table.

In 1938, the western wing of the Alšvanga Castle was rebuilt for the needs of the school, with the addition of the second floor. The official opening of the new premises took place in 1939.

From the autumn of 1944 until the end of the war, the Alšvanga school was closed, because its premises were used as a hospital for the treatment of German soldiers wounded at the front.

The transformation of the 6-grade elementary school to the Alšvanga secondary school took place in the summer of 1945, when the 6th grade graduates were allowed to continue their studies in the 8th grade without entrance exams. It was also the first class of the secondary school for them at the same time.

In 1968, Alsunga secondary school was named after a local leftist revolutionary Eduards Upesleja.

In 1977, the Alsunga Music School started its work in a small building on Raiņa Street.

In 1979, the construction of the Alsunga kindergarten with 140 places was completed.

Between 1984 and 1986, the new building of the Alsunga Secondary School was built. It was designed to accommodate up to 470 children.

In 1992, the Alsung music school moved to the castle.

In 2005, the Alsung Music School moved from the second floor of the castle building to the Alsung Secondary School building.

2007/2008 226 students studied in Alsunga secondary school.. After finishing high school, 55-65 percent of graduates continued their studies at universities. Alsunga secondary school had 28 teaching staff.

In 2007, 19 people worked in the kindergarten. The kindergarten had 4 age groups for children from 3 to 6 years old. In total, around 60 children stayed there.

In 2009, music theory was taught at the Alsunga Music School, where you could learn to play the piano, guitar, kokle and accordion. The school had 6 teachers (4 in Alsunga) and about 60 students. Among them, a little more than half studied in Alsung. Training also took place in Jūrkalne and Ēdole.

In 2008, Alsunga High School passed the competition and became involved in the UNESCO associated schools project with the aim of introducing regional subjects into the training program. Teaching of the first subjects started on October 1, 2009. Thus, it was intended to ensure the transfer of the unique intangible cultural heritage of the Suiti community to future generations. Unfortunately, this plan was not implemented.

In 2021, within the framework of the municipal reform forced upon us by the state, the Suiti municipality of Alsunga was abolished, and it was included in the Kuldīgas municipality. One of the first victims of this merger was the secondary school, which in September 2021 was transformed into Alsunga elementary school.