with a dream
Fr. Julius Turyatoranwa, the founder of St. Patrick Nursery & Primary School, has been inspired by his humble beginnings as a child born in Uganda, in generational poverty. He is one of ten siblings, three of whom dropped out of school to enable Julius to have tuition for seminary high school. His dream has been to give back, to enable Ugandan children of similar backgrounds to become inventors and innovators by providing them a quality education. While earning his PhD in Educational Administration at Illinois State University, Fr. Julius also worked on obtaining land to be the site of a premier boarding school in Uganda.
Fr. Julius shared his dream for the school with friends in Central Illinois, especially at the parishes he was serving: St. Patrick Church in Washington and St. Monica Church in East Peoria. Fundraisers were organized, and donations started to add up - - enough to begin the project. In late 2017 the school site was cleared. In 2018, with thousands of bricks made by hand, all of the Phase 1 buildings were constructed. In February 2019, over 300 students began classes in the brand new school.
At the start of the 2020 school year in February, there were 528 students enrolled: 273 boarding students; 158 sponsored by people throughout the U.S. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, all schools in Uganda were shut down; students were sent home in March 2020 after only 6 weeks of school. However, on October 15, 2020, primary schools in Uganda were opened for P7 (7th grade) students, so they could finish their school year and prepare for the national advancement test: "Primary Leaving Exams" (PLE). Support staff, the P7 teachers and administrators, and our P7 students returned to campus, working hard. Our 25 P7 students took their exams in March 2021. They did exceptionally well, and their overall scores ranked our school #2 of the 100+ schools in the district. Throughout 2021, classes were allowed to return on a staggered, intermittent basis, as Covid levels went up and down. Students continued working on the levels they began in 2020, eventually covering most but not all of the subject matter. They were all promoted to the grade level - - with 2021 declared a "lost school year".
In January 2022, when Uganda schools were allowed to open, many schools didn't. Some had been converted to housing or other businesses during Covid. Since there are no national Unemployment benefits in Uganda, most school employees - and some students - had to find other ways to earn a living. However, BHIK-U had been able to continue salaries for all the school's employees, and continue to meet construction goals, during the crazy Covid shutdown. Our school was ready for the school year to begin!
St. Patrick Nursery & Primary School began the 2022 school year with over 800 students (209 sponsored) and 41 teachers. Structures had grown as well: St. Francis of Assisi Auditorium and additional housing for teachers were almost complete by the time the students entered the campus. Throughout 2022, capital improvements continued, providing everyone at the school the very best living conditions.
All of this has been achieved thanks to the kind generosity of so many supporters, and the grace of God, who constantly surprises us with His blessings.
Building Hope in Kids - Uganda (BHIK-U) was Incorporated as a nonprofit in April 2017, and received its 501(c)(3) approval in December 2017. BHIK-U is dedicated to building and supporting "St. Patrick Nursery & Primary School, Day & Boarding" in Uganda.