Dear teachers and pupils of Lapmežciems Primary School, it is such a pleasure to address you on this wonderful morning.
1st of September or the first day of school and the beginning of the new academic year is here. However, this year’s celebrations are somewhat subdued, we are cautious and at the same time happy that we can finally meet each other again. This spring clearly demonstrated that entirely remote learning is not as fulfilling as real life. This year you will have to do a bit of both the remote and traditional learning. But it will still be better than remote learning only. There is no technology that could substitute the direct contact between humans, be it between students or teacher and student, and that is the good news. People will always come first.
First day of school is just a regular day in other countries, whereas in Latvia it is a well-established tradition to celebrate it. It is not just a beginning of new work period, which happens every year like clockwork. It is an emotionally moving and elevating moment for all Latvians.
It comes from our past. First Latvian schools were opened only around late 17th and early 18th century, giving local peasants the only available social ladder if you will. That is why education has always been so special for Latvians. If you take early or late 19th century Europe, Latvia has always been on of those nations that had the highest literacy rates. That is the characteristic feature of our education system deeply embedded in the minds of our people. That is why return to school, which is widely celebrated only in Latvia as far as I know, is part of our identity and modern social fabric where education plays increasingly prominent role, all the way up from nurseries to the end of high school, and, of course, even further.
Lapmežciems School, with its more than 15 decade-long history is the best evidence that this place has traditionally been inhabited by people who recognise and respect the worth of education.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, first year pupils,
You are surrounded by beautiful coastal nature, well-preserved, retrofitted and easily accessible culture and education infrastructure (school, library, museum, Community Centre, sports arena) and good transport connections. A perfect environment for living, and even better place to grow up.
Lapmežciems, like Bigauņciems and Ragaciems, are a suitable home not only for modern people with high standards. All three coastal villages of Riga Bay are a part of centuries-old special and quite unique cultural environment, which revolves around ancient traditions and fishermen’s dwellings. Most locals are no longer part of traditional lifestyle, but you can still feel it when you come to Lapmežciems, Bigauņciems, Ragaciems or Klapkalnciems, and you feel it living here as well, of course. It is the source of our sense of belonging, sense of being a part of local culture and also connected to nearby Riga, which brings more modern living into it.
There are few locals who know what old names like ‘bigauņi’, ‘lapmežciemi’ or ‘radzenieki’ mean. I believe identity is vital for sense of belonging. It grounds us in our place. I am about to hand the bill on historical Latvian lands and local cultural spaces over to our parliament. I am certain that this local cultural space should also be preserved and passed down to future generations. And Lapmežciems School can play an important role in preserving and passing down this local heritage.
As a child, and later in my life, I have at times had to frequently pass by Lapmežciems School on my way home to Klapkalnciems, which is right next to this village. That is why local culture is, of course, very near and dear to me.
So, once again huge congratulations to everyone starting school year at Lapmežciems School today. I hope you will have all the energy and luck, as well as health, to successfully complete this academic year. This especially concerns out youngest students who are starting their schooling today. Do not worry, you will do just fine. Good luck everyone!