Focus of considerable pride and symbol of national awakening under Ottoman rule, the first secular school with subjects taught in Albanian was opened in Korça on March 7, 1887. Until then, education was only given by travelling teachers. Korça was a logical place for the first school, as it was Albania's largest and most developed city, with many trade links to the east as well as to Western Europe and the USA, and an open attitude to foreign influence and change. Though the school was originally mixed, a special girls' school was opened soon after, in 1891. The Ottoman rulers tolerated the schools as Albanians came in handy in the Ottoman Army, but after Albanians began to request too many liberties in following decades, their schools were closed. This resulted in mass protest – in 1910 some 12,000 people met in Korça (and later in other cities too) to defend the schools, with success. The school continued to function until the building was turned into a museum in 1960.
Exhibits inside the former classrooms show documents that are important to the development of Albanian education such as the first written Albanian text ('The mass', written by a Catholic priest) and the very first student book.
The story of the Albanian alphabet is interesting too, as it was a language with no written history that was spelled in a mix of Greek and Turkish letters until the current alphabet with 36 Latin-based letters was accepted in 1908.
Outside the museum, there's a charming concrete statue of the ABC with a large writing feather and pot of ink. We're told the exhibition will be in for a well-needed renovation soon, but we hope they hang on to the wonderful socialist ABC curtains. Phoning ahead is a good idea, otherwise rattle the museum gates to attend the guard of your presence.
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