|The Sea Hospital Roger de Grimberghe: Belgiumís first school funding controversy in miniature|
|Between 1878 and 1884 Belgiumís educational policy struggled with its first school funding controversy. When Belgium became an independent country in 1830, the Belgian state decided not to organize education and schooling itself, but entrusted this task to the Catholic Church. The Law of 1842 on the organisation of primary schools in Belgium more or less consolidated this situation. However, in 1879, the Liberal government adopted a law, which stated that all state primary schools had to become neutral schools. According to this law, every city or municipality had to build up its own school. In these schools it was forbidden to teach religious education and all teachers were asked to get a teacher training degree from a state teacher training college. For six years, there will be a hard struggle between Liberals and Catholics in trying to convince the people about the strength and the importance of their own educational system. In 1884, the Catholic Party won the elections. As a result, a law that showed many similarities with the Law of 1842 replaced the Law of 1879.
Up until now, the history of sea hospitals and sanatoria has especially been studied from a medical and clinical perspective, paying attention to e.g. the history of medical treatments. In this paper, the history of sea hospitals will be analysed from an educational and ideological perspective. More specifically, the focus will be on the history of líHŰpital Maritime Roger de Grimberghe in Middelkerke, a little city near the Belgian coast. The General Council of the Civil Hospices of Brussels built this sea hospital in 1884. The hospitals main task consisted of taking in needy children from the Brussels region who suffered from rickets (a bone disease better known as rickets) or scrofulosis (inflammation of the lymph glands). The children were sent to the hospice by the municipal government and the local authority bore the cost of these childrenís stay.
In this paper we especially pay attention to the discussion about schooling in the sea hospital Roger de Grimberghe against the background of the first school funding controversy. A remarkable feature of this Belgian sea hospital was that the children were not schooled. Compared to e.g. the sea hospitals of Berck-sur-Mer in France, which were regarded as the main example for the Belgian initiative, for about 20 years, all schooling was prohibited. While doctor Casse was leading the hospice, no schooling was given. It is not until 1901, briefly after the appointment of Gustave Gevaert, the successor of Casse, that the General Council takes the organisation of schooling in the hospice to heart, though it got during the first years several opportunities to organise schooling in the hospital. The paper draws upon records of the General Council of the Civil Hospices of Brussels, the Episcopacy of Western Flanders and newspaper accounts.