For 18 years, the building which is now the Casa Orlandai civic centre housed the Talitha school. The centre opened in 1956 and was outside of the official education system, recuperating the Catalan pedagogical renovation from the 30s. The founder was Maria Teresa Codina, with the collaboration of a team of teachers who shared her wish for an education based on equality, austerity, sociability, respect for Catalan and diversity.
At a young age, the teacher Maria Teresa Codina recognised the need to change the education system imposed by Franco, or at least to create alternatives. However, she wasn’t sure how to do it so she went to France for a year to gain information on other models of education. On her return, at the age of 29, she founded the Talitha school. The Casa Orlandai was the perfect place for the project Codina had in mind as the proximity of the train in the Sarrià neighbourhood meant pupils from all over Barcelona could attend.
At first things were very tough and there were many impediments, one important obstacle being the training of teachers. According to Codina, “there were lots of people interested in doing things differently as they knew the system didn’t work, but they didn’t have enough knowledge or information to try it”. Another issue to confront came in the form of inspections. Classes were given in Catalan at a time when this was prohibited so they had to be clever and have everything ready at the right moment. “When an inspector came, a child was sent to deliver a handful of pencils to each class. That was the signal for teachers to hang up a photo of Franco and cover up any signs of Catalan”.
The seed for present day public education
The Talitha school was operative for 18 years. It closed in 1974, giving way to a new model of public schooling based on innovative projects such as the one at the centre. During its 18 year life span, the school went from an intake of 15 students in its first year to 500 when it closed down.