Let's go back to the beginning of the 20th century. The area has about 10000 inhabitants. According to the information we have, 45% of the population in Asturias were illiterate. In Piñera a family was specially worried about this situation. Fortunato de Selgas y Albuerne (1838-1921), one of the youngest sons of a wealthy married couple from “El Pito”, tried to fight against this problem. An erudite and passionate of the arts, he considered how he could make culture come to this village. He chose to build a school. He wanted the kids of Cudillero and its surroundings not to have any problems in the future due to a lack of education. He wanted to offer his hometown a better destiny. That was the origin of the Selgas Schools that nowadays is the high school of the council, IES Selgas.
Fortunato de Selgas himself, together with the architect Vicente Lampérez, designed the impressive building we have today. In front of it we can find a monument dedicated to the Selgas family, made by Victor Hevia in the 1920s, a gift from the community to the family. The legend "Fostering education makes your homeland stronger" can be read on it. The building would undergo a complete reformation in 1993 to help its change into a high school.
On 6th January 1915, the “Selgas Schools”, next to his palace, were opened. The speech which he gave showed his real intentions: “Following my siblings’ wishes, Don Ezequiel and doña Francisca de Albuerne, and mine, I founded and organized these “Escuelas Selgas” to teach and instruct the children in Santa María de Piñera, providing its classrooms with the teachers and necessary funds to support them, so that the pupils who study here can receive an education that can provide them with the necessary means for their future and make them aware of the warm feelings our family has for this area".
In this project he wasn’t alone. Fortunato de Selgas designed, together with the rector of the University of Oviedo, Fermín Canella, the school charter. They even organized the timetable, which was a great advance for this small area at the time. His wish of having the best learning methods made him spend a huge quantity of money. The building was a great luxury for a village like “El Pito”. All students who wanted to come to the school were invited no matter what their families’ economic situation was. The project included lots of facilities: free books and school supplies. Students also had many motivations. For instance, there was cinema every Thursday as a way of fostering culture, beyond lessons in books.They also had a school canteen, which started just a few years after the schools were opened, and where students could have a free meal every day. In the sixties school transport was added, turning the school into a place with many advantages. In the following video some examples of the material used to teach.
The school was an example of education and its importance went beyond the Asturian boundaries. On the 30th November 1916, Alfonso XIII thanked Fortunato de Selgas because of “his work in favour of culture”. The Schools never closed, but they changed their status. In 1915 they were born as a private foundation for education; in 1986, the school began to form part of the public schooling system; and in 1995, it changed into nowadays high school.
The teachers who have worked at the Selgas Schools say that being part of them was something to be proud of, since the schools had been a national and regional reference. It was full of what later was called the “Selgas spirit”. This can be understood as an enthusiasm for being part of the community who had been fighting since the beginning of the XXth century to promote education and prevent illiteracy. María Noriega, who started working in the school in 1962, and became its headmistress later on, remembers special moments such as the raffles in which kids could win a toy and some money. “People wanted to come to the school because of its many advantages; everything was positive, it was just marvellous”, says Ms Noriega. There were many celebrations: School trips, afternoon teas and toys at Christmas, when the three Wise Men “visited” the school. On 25th June, St Jacques Day, a calf was raffled, while all the students shared a meal together. Even the chocolate had the family logo. “All this was a luxury available only for a few in Spain” she emphasizes. When students became 12, they could go to the business school, next to school.
Alberto Castellano, who is now a teacher at the high school, was also a student at the Selgas Schools. He remembers how much everything has changed. “People went to school happily”, he says. There was a close friendship and mutual understanding. Mr Castellano now teaches classmates’ grandchildren. Most students know the school's history and the reason why it was created: to transmit culture in difficult times.
Alberto and his students in 1st ESO have prepared a video in which they explain the beginning of the Selgas Schools and the process they underwent until they became today's secondary school, IES Selgas:
THE FAMILY. The story of family and the house is an interesting one : two brothers from a family of eight, inherited a big amount of money from their parents, owners of a grocery shop in Asturias.