The Väla school

Press Release   •   Feb 24, 2011 07:00 GMT

Väla School (Väla skola) from Västergötland is an example of the vast number of schools that were built in the Swedish countryside in the middle of the 19th century. Parliament had passed a law in 1842 requiring school attendance on the part of all children in Sweden. There was to be a school in every parish and qualified teachers were to be employed to teach the children. Initially, schooling lasted for six years. At Skansen we can see what Väla School was like in about 1910 when the teacher was a Mr. Hellsjö.

To the left of the entrance hall is the classroom and to the right the teacher’s living quarters. The children had their own entrance through a door at the end of the building. There was a harmonium in the classroom and the teacher’s desk is on a raised dais. Behind the obligatory blackboard, maps and illustrations of animals and plants were kept.

The pupils sat in threes in the desks and it was here that they ate their packed lunches. Children were taught scripture, reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic. Knowledge of the Bible was considered especially important.

The teacher’s living quarters are reached through the entrance at the front of the school. To the right there is a little room in which the teacher used to receive visitors. The other room served as a living room and bedroom. There is a sewing machine that Mrs Hellsjö used. She used also to weave mats out of cloth remnants as well as fabrics for clothing. On the yard there is a building that functioned as a brewery and laundry. Further down the garden were the privies, one for boys and one for girls.

The garden also houses some beehives. Mr. Hellsjö used to sell honey in order to increase his modest salary. Sometimes he earned more money from selling honey than from teaching. The fruit from the trees and bushes also boosted the family’s finances. Väla School also had a kitchen garden in which the children learnt to grow vegetables.